On January 26, 2011 Andrew P. Obon (APO) received a certificate of recognition from CASASAI (Combative And Sportive Arnis System Association Inc.) from its President Melecio Balberde and Vice-President Lino Baldevarona at the West Visayan College of Science and Technology Martial Arts Gym, La Paz, Iloilo City.

The citation reads: “In grateful recognition of his invaluable contributions to the development of CASASAI as one of its Grandmasters. His knowledge and skills significantly contributed to the continuous development of Filipino Martial Arts under the umbrella of the association.”

Andrew is the Punong Guro of the APO-Balintawak Self Defense System. His training gym is located in Phillips Bukidnon. He was the first arnis instructor of Master Balderde who, together with Mr. Baldevarona founded the CASASAI.

The CASASAI under the leadership of Master Balberde has been a four-time overall champion of the Philippine Olympic Festival National Arnis Championship held last November 2007 in Manila until 2010. They are the current defending champion in both anyo (form) and labanan (free fighting) categories.

CASASAI is a style without a style. It incorporates all martial arts techniques that work into a system. Its mission is to promote and pressure the Filipino Cultural Heritage through the practice of arnis


Image: Guru Andrew P. Obon

Andrew Pereira Obon was born Filipino – Malaysian parents on May 19, 1954 in Cabatuan, Iloilo, Philippines. His parents returned to North Borneo (Sabah) as it was known then. There, Andrew grew up and finished junior secondary school in Malaysia. He is the second of eight siblings of five boys and three girls. Andrew is married to Ester Bulfa Ymalay of Negros Oriental. They are blessed with four sons and a daughter.

At 13 years old, Andrew was initiated into the martial arts. He first studied traditional Taekwondo, as part of his school’s physical fitness program. He later enrolled fulltime in a local Taekwondo Club in Tawau, Sabah. He also had the opportunity to learn Kuntao self-defense from an Indonesian Imam. On weekends, together with a Chinese friend, Andrew studied Chinese boxing, under closed door, from a local master.

In early 1972, Andrew and his eldest sister returned to the Philippines to study at the Siliman University, Dumaguete City. In mid of the same year, Andrew continued his martial arts training. He enrolled with the Negros Oriental Moo Duk Kwon Tang Soo Do Organization. Its president and chief instructor then was Alonso Makilan. Andrew was also a member of the All Philippines Karate-Judo Organization (APKO) under Engr. Narambolo Lopez; Philippine Karate Association (PKA) and Kapisanan ng mga Karatista ng Pilipinas (KMP) headed then by Col. Dante Nagtalon and Roberto Gonzales, respectively.

Image: APO Self-Defense Club participates in KMP Karate Tournament

In 1973, Andrew coached and headed the Dumaguete City delegation to the APKO Open Karate Tournament held in Murcia, Negros Occidental. Andrew was the champion in the black belt division while his team won the overall championship. He was appointed Club Head and Chief Instructor of the APKO Central Gym in Dumaguete City in 1973.

Also in 1973, Andrew held APKO in the Regional Open Karate Tournament sponsored by PKA in the West Negros Gym, Bacolod City. Despite the difficulty to adjust from full contact to PKA point system, Andrew managed to reach the semi-finals.

In 1972, Andrew was conferred the Best Fighter Award in a tournament organized by APKO in Baguio City.

After he had gained proficiency in empty hand self-defense, Andrew felt the need to go into weapon training, especially in the art of eskrima/arnis. He started with double baston in 1973, under Master Casimero “Merut” Espino in Dumaguete City. Master Espino was a granduncle by affinity who was then in his late 60’s. In the same year, Andrew had lessons in traditional single baston from Col. Filisisimo “Momoy” Bulfa, an uncle by affinity. Learning sessions with Master Col. Bulfa was done during his serial visits to Dumaguete City.

As fate had it in 1974, Andrew met the notable death match fighter, the late Master Tinong Ybañes of Cebu City. Master Ybañes taught Andrew the original version of Balintawak Eskrima as what he had learned from Great Grandmaster Venoncio “Ansiong” Bacon (1912-1980). Master Ybañes first started his training in Balintawak under GM Atty. Jose Villasin who later referred him to GGM Bacon. Master Ybañes taught circular footwork with random integration of techniques.

When Master Ybañes became busy with his personal business in 1976, plying between the cities of Cebu and Dumaguete, Master Nicomedes “Nick” Elegartook over the Dumaguete Balintawak Chapter. Master Elizar is the protege of the late GM Teofilo Velez of Toevel-Balintawak. Master Elizar is better known for his Nickelstick-Balintawak. He taught the international version of Balintawak as systematized by GM Atty. Villasin.

Image: Back Row (3rd person from left to right)- Bobby Taboada, Tinong Ibanez, Tiofilo Velez, John Doe, Andrew P. Obon (APO). And Front Row (4th from left) Nick Elizar (Nickelstick) and flunking him are the Velez sons Chito and Ed.

In 1979, Andrew moved to Ilioilo City to continue his studies at the Central Philippine University where he graduated. There, he met and trained Melicio “Mel” Balberde who would become one of his notable student and founder of the now famous CASASAI (Combative and Sportive Arnis System Association, Inc.). CASASAI is based in Iloilo City with international branches in Hong Kong, Jakarta, among others.

While in Iloilo City, Andrew and Mel had an exchange of skills with Master Carmelino Reliesiba. Andrew shared the basics of Balintawak Arnis in exchange for Master Reliesiba’s hand-to-hand and knife combat. This interactive learning went on for over a year.

In 1986, Andrew and family returned to Negros Oriental, the home province of his wife. There, he groomed another protégé in the person of Flex Agbon whose martial skills were duly tested in the slum of Tondo, Manila. Flex’s martial arts skills again saved his life from a pre-meditated armed-group attack in a remote mountain village in Negros Oriental.

In search of greener pasture, the Obons relocated to Misamis Oriental, Mindanao in 1987. While waiting for gainful employment, Andrew opened a self-defense club in Tagoloan town. There he taught Tang Soo Do and Balintawak Eskrima. His club participated in the KMP Open Karate Tournament held in Xavier University Gym, Cagayan de Oro City in 1988. It was a team competition. The fifth and last player of the team was meted a technical disqualification. Hence, the team was out of competition.

Image: APO with the APO-Balintawak Self Defense Club Officers

At present, Andrew works for an agro-industrial company in Bukidnon, Mindanao as a supervising agriculturist. To keep fit and brace him with the martial arts, which has been his passion, Andrew teaches self-defense with Balintawak Eskrima as its base art.

At 56 years old, Andrew is a seasoned martial artist and a veteran tournament fighter. Andrew believes that the best rule of engagement is to win without fighting. After all, the mark of a true martial artist is one who is mild outside but strong within.

Video: Punong Guro Andrew P. Obon performing Corridas

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