My Kung Fu Journey

I was born in Cebu, the oldest city in the Philippines. Cebu had a diverse population by the time I was born, and had a large Chinese community living downtown.

For eleven years, I was the only child and was thin and sickly. It took four to five hours to feed me lunch; whoever was feeding me needed to tell me lengthy stories just to make me eat. A lot of them gave up because they ran out of stories!

My good father took it upon himself to help me grow stronger. One of the ways he did that was to let me learn Kung Fu. At the time I started learning, Bruce Lee became popular and I was inspired by him that I would try to imitate him by punching and kicking the plants and trees around our home.

Once, my grandmother (who lived next door to us) had a guest, a holy man who used to be a cop in Los Angeles. He saw me punching and kicking and said I had an affinity for martial arts. That was the first sign of confirmation for the passion that I had for Kung Fu.

When I was in high school, I had a friend named Leroy. We and some of my friends were the only ones left unscathed after a big fight. We became close after that and he started coming over to my house on Saturdays to teach me. I found out that he was learning a Chinese martial art, Choy Li Fut Kung Fu, at a kwoon (physical place for learning kung fu) in downtown Cebu.

After about two years of teaching, he finally brought me to meet his teacher, Master Cheang Nga Ping or Ty Ngai Ping. Master Ty as he was fondly called is a traditional Kung Fu Master. The day I met him was the beginning of my real kung fu journey and it was there at his Hong Sing (the traditional place to learn the art of Choy Li Fut Kung Fu) that my love and passion grew.

I was like a sponge that drank in all I could learn from my teacher. But sadly, for me and for many who knew him, Master Ty passed away. His family tried to keep the art alive but had to close the Master’s kwoon. There was another teacher of the Hong Sing school that used to teach when Master Ty was in China, his name was Lao Kim. I tried looking for him but even he was not around anymore. He was back in Hong Kong is what I heard.

I did not stop looking for a real, authentic teacher of Choy Li Fut kung fu. One day, when I was in law school, someone was introduced to me whose name was Bolde. I learned he had been practicing for four months but was still learning stances. That was how I knew he was learning the authentic way – as Kung Fu cannot be learned so quickly. Bolde then let me meet his teacher, Sifu Edgar Rodriguez.

Sifu Edgar Rodriguez was a traditionalist, much like Master Ty. Before I could become his student, I had to hold my stance for at least 45 minutes. I practiced day in and day out. Anywhere and everywhere I could, I practiced this until I was ready. I had many sessions learning from him. To the chagrin of my aunt who was his neighbor, I spent many more hours in his home taking in all that I could. Before I knew it, those too had to come to an end because he was leaving for the States. Before he did, though, he left me with a present I would never forget – to meet his teacher, Sifu Johhny Chiuten, who himself was a student of the great Lao Kim.

Meeting the legendary Johnny Chiuten was one of the highlights of my life. The feeling of excitement of meeting such a great teacher is life changing. Then came the day I met another legend, Grand Master Doc Fai Wong. He is the head of the Plum Blossom International Federation based in San Francisco, California. It is from GM Doc Fai Wong that I am advancing my Kung fu, and he continues to teach me to this day.

Now I am a teacher myself, a Sifu, but am still learning day by day.