The 25-year journey
By Master Brian Zawilinski
IMAF, Inc.

     I started my martial arts training on July 22, 1981 under Sifu Lee Lowery. A few months after I started training, Sifu Lee started training with Grandmaster Remy Presas. Their friendship quickly blossomed and Grandmaster Presas started visiting Connecticut quite often for the next several years. I trained under both Instructors until Grandmaster Presas passed away in 2001.
     In 1988 Sifu Lee Lowery was promoted to 6th degree in Kenpo Karate and was awarded the title of "Professor". In the early/mid 1990's, Grandmaster Presas promoted Professor Lowery to 6th degree in Modern Arnis. Throughout the next ten years - Professor Lowery more or less retired from actively teaching Modern Arnis, and eventually retired from publicly teaching altogether. To this day he still serves as a mentor and spiritual guide to me and for this I am very thankful.
     Although I trained under both Instructors in Modern Arnis since 1981, as Professor Lowery became less and less active in teaching Modern Arnis, I started training more and more with Grandmaster Presas. In 1998 Grandmaster Presas promoted me to 5th degree in Modern Arnis and 2 years later he designated me as one of the 7 Masters of Tapi Tapi.
     For almost a decade now, I have been traveling throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and now Southeast Asia teaching and sharing this incredible art given to me by Grandmaster Presas. Traveling to meet him all over the states was an incredible experience. Assisting him in making the videos in September 1998 in Victoria, British Columbia was very painful but an honor nonetheless. Since his death in 2001, traveling for this Art has given me an entirely new understanding of people and making connections.
     In June 2005, IMAFP Master Samuel "Bambit" Dulay was invited to train with IMAF, Inc ( at our annual Summer Training Camp at Michigan State University. After meeting Bambit and emailing with him for several months, I eventually accepted his invitation to come to the Philippines to train and teach amongst the IMAFP Masters at the 3rd FMA and 1st Grandmaster Presas Memorial Camp (please note I was not the only one invited - all 6 IMAF, Inc. Masters were invited, but could not attend).
     Upon asking Bambit about expenses and details like housing, transportation, etc. his reply was "you will be our guest - don't worry about it". I met up with Guro Roland Rivera (one of IMAF Inc. senior most and highest ranking Instructors) in Detroit, and together we set off for Manila.
     Our 2 week journey was quite memorable, we were well received by the IMAFP Masters, and as the days went by, we started spending more and more time with them talking, sharing stories about Grandmaster Presas, getting to know one another, watching each other teach, and "CONNECTING" within this incredible Art.
     A two-day trip to Hinigaran had been planned as part of the agenda for the 2-week event by IMAFP, but had been rescheduled for July 22nd - July 24th. Problem being, that Roland and I were leaving for home on July 23rd at 6:30 am. As the trip grew closer, Master Rene Tongson became more and more insistent that Roland and I make the trip to Hinigaran. Of course we were concerned about the dates and flights involved, but Master Rene and Master Bambit assured us everything would work out. I accepted his offer and flew out to Bacolod City with Master Rene and approximately 18 other delegates and Instructors early on the morning of July 22nd. (Roland reluctantly had to stay behind and meet with his family in Manila). The overall agenda was to visit the grave of Grandmaster Presas, attend an informal groundbreaking ceremony at the sight of where a statue will be erected of Grandmaster Presas in the town square of Hinigaran, and possibly visit the ancestral home of Grandmaster Presas.
     Shortly after my arrival in Bacolod City, I was separated from the group (accompanied by Master Bambit and a friend of his named Bobong). We drove an hour to Hinigaran and visited the grave of our Teacher. We stopped at the church where the final mass was said for Grandmaster Presas, then we walked across the street to the town square and they showed me where the statue will likely be placed. Another short drive and we arrived at the ancestral homestead of the

Master Brian Zawilinski w/ Teresita
Master Brian Zawilinski w/ Teresita Grandmaster Remy Presas Oldest Sister
Brian Zawilinski w/ Teresita, Master Vasquez, and Master Dulay
Brian Zawilinski w/ Teresita, Master Vasquez, and Master Dulay

     Presas family. To my surprise, Master Cristino Vasquez comes walking across the street and meets us at the front door of the Presas homestead. The 4 of us were then invited into the house where I was given a short tour then allowed to sit down and visit with Grandmaster Roberto Presas (Remy's younger brother) and Manang Teresita (Remy's older sister). {As I am walking up the "6 steps" to enter the house - Master Cristino starts to tell me that I am making history - in that (in essence) there are no outsiders allowed into this home!
     As I am sitting on the couch next to Teresita, she asked me how long I had been training - and it dawned on me that it was 25 years to the day! What a way to celebrate and reflect on 25 years of training! We went on to discuss many things (most of which are to personal to the Presas family for me to include in this article). I will say the facial resemblance of Remy and Teresita was amazing, I kept telling myself to stop staring at her for fear of making her feel uneasy.
     Upon our departure, Grandmaster Roberto Presas gave me a brief but (no doubt in my mind he has Presas blood coursing through his veins) demonstration of Espada y daga outside the front of the house, and then he showed me "under" the house where Grandmaster Presas always talked about "Planting Rice and Espada y Daga".  After a brief walk across the street to visit the home of IMAFP Master Cristino Vasquez (a cousin and 9th degree black belt under Grandmaster Presas) we headed back to Bacolod City for my return flight home.

Master Romy Lisondra
Master Romy Lisondra first student of Grandmaster Remy Presas (1956)

     Upon checking in at the airport, Master Bambit informs me that we have one more stop to make. I am then escorted to the home of Master Lisondra - one of Grandmaster Presas' premier students prior to his leaving for the United States in 1975. Due to time constraints we only had a few minutes to visit, but nonetheless a "connection" was once again established. Master Lisondra is completely blind and upon extending a formal greeting to him (our handshake placed to my forehead) he would not let go of my hand - we maintained our handshake the entire time I was there (the serenity I felt coming off of him was unbelievable).
     For the next several days, I could not stop thinking and feeling about what had transpired on July 22nd. There are no words to describe what the IMAFP Masters and Bobong did for me. It quickly became obvious that the trip to Hinigaran was completely pre planned and quite intentional. The fact that I barely knew Bambit and had just met everyone else just 2 weeks prior made it even more amazing. I later learned that the "group" agenda for the Hinigaran trip was similar to mine, but in some ways very different.

Were Grandmaster Remy Presas taught Master Lisondra at the Bottom of their House

To Master Bambit and the Masters of IMAFP – I salute you!
Salamat Po!





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