His father, Sol, was stronger than a bull. Arturo knew that because his father tried to raise him to be the strongest. When he was a boy of five, his father began training him in the art of arnis. With a pair of rattan sticks, they’d strike at the black rubber tires tied to the trunks of palm trees outside their house for hours on end. Then they’d rest under the mango grove nearby and drink fresh coconut milk and eat the soft white meat straight out of the husks. All the while, he’d hear his father talk about their family’s heritage—that their forefather was a warrior and a hero, the island’s founder—that Solferino Borinaga, after whom his father was named, was among the earliest practitioners of the ancient art of stick-fighting in the world. His father believed that arnis should be the country’s national martial art as it was the oldest and used by their heroes in fighting against the invaders from the seas.
Sadly, such history was forgotten by the Borinagas as the century passed, and it was a shame they’d never had one in their line becoming an arnis world champion. His father told the young Arturo he could be the first one. But instead of the getting interested with the art of stick fighting, Arturo was so weaved inside Solferino’s stories that he’d run to the harbors and dive deep into the sea; when he’d surfaced, he’d witness the old battles happening all around him. So he never refused a practice no matter how bad his blisters got, for they were the only times he’d hear stories about Solferino—his sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—their whole line of ancestors who lived and died for the island.