“Bunong Braso”, the Battle of Arms

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“Bunong Braso” or Arm Wrestling is a sport played by two individuals where their arm strength is tested. According to the Ultimate Armwrestling League, Arm Wrestling can be traced back to ancient Egypt about 2,000 B.C.. This is because of a painting that was seen in an Egyptian tomb which seems to illustrate a type of arm wrestling. In the Philippines, Arm Wrestling is considered as an Indigenous People’s sport or “Laro ng Lahi” as we locally call them. It symbolizes national identity and pride. It is famous in Luzon as “Bunong Braso”, in Visayas as “Ukbo” and in Mindanao as “Tumbahan”. “Bunong” literally means wrestling while “Braso” means arm. In Visayas, “UK” means “Arm Toppling” and “BO” means “Maneuvering Tactics” while the Mindanao term “tumbahan” stands for “toppling”. There are other local names for Armwrestling including “Sangga” and “Sanggol” According to an article on Philippine Traditional Games, the sport, therefore, is an open gesture of a gentleman-friendly sport which is a symbol of true brotherhood, love and understanding wherein winning is only secondary especially that it is open to everybody regardless of sex, creed and status.

In the Cordillera Region, the sport is known as “Sanggol”. It is included in the Region as a part of their “Laro ng Lahi” often played during the celebration of Indigenous People’s Month. It is also one of the games included in the Department of Education’s Provincial and Regional Meet for 7 years now. It is still on the process of pushing it to be added in the “Palarong Pambansa” since it is a nationwide-known sport after all. This sport, like darts and billiards, is also included in games played for advertisement and promotion of establishments like restaurants and bars. It is understandable especially that it is not only enjoyable and fun, but it also has minimal requirements when it comes to the necessary equipment or paraphernalia. There is a standard table set by the Armwrestling League but as it is a “Laro ng Lahi” in the country, any flat surface comfortable for standing or sitting individuals for the sport will do.

“Sanggol” has always been a part of the Cordilleran people. They usually play it anytime especially for amusement during their rest from a tiring day. At present, the sport is not only played as a pastime but it is reincorporated in fiestas, intermission in assemblies and other community celebrations. And because of the muscular physique of the Cordilleran people, some say that they have more advantage in this sport. Though not scientifically proven, it is assumed based on circumstances. Aside from the fact that the Cordillerans’ enthusiasm with “Sanggol” is revived, this is one of the reasons why Armwrestling Philippines chose to perform an exhibition game last January 19, 2019 in the Region in the place where you usually find the Igorot cowboys, the famous Cowboy Town found in La Trinidad, Benguet. Another rising restaurant in City of Pines held armwrestling tournaments open not only to men but also to women and transgenders. Let’s hope that these kind of sport will continue to nourish despite the battle with the ever-growing invasion of screens to stimulate growth, physically as well as intellectually and to keep our tradition alive for the generations to come.

By: Arnel T. Cobaldez

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