The youngest of eight brothers and four sisters, Ciriaco "Cacoy" Cañete y de la Cuesta was born in August 1919 in San Fernando, Cebu, Philippines. He moved with the family to Cebu City while still a child, not long after his mother's death.
The seven elder Cañete brothers learned the basics of Eskrima from their father, Gregorio, and uncles Gavino and Pedro(Gregorio's brothers), and Juancho de la Cuesta(their mother’s brother).
Cacoy, on the other hand, was introduced to boxing at age five, and to Eskrima two years later by his elder brother Filemon or Momoy.
Eskrima is a family affair for the siblings. The brothers – Florentino (Tinong), Eulogio (Yoling), Filemon (Momoy), Silvestre (Eti), Tirso (Eso), Rufino (Pining), Andres (Dading), and Ciriaco (Cacoy) - would later be instrumental in the creation of the Doce Pares Association in 1932, with the help of Grand Master Lorenzo "Tatang Insong" Saavedra, and his nephews, Teodoro and Federico, as well as other masters. Yoling served as the association’s lifetime president, holding office until 1988.
But, Cacoy was the fighter of the lot.
Not content with the rudiments of boxing (he climbed the ring as an amateur pugilist in high school), as well as, his proficiency in Eskrima, Cacoy began studying Jui-jitsu and other related throwing arts in 1933, at the tender age of 14.
He studied the much gentler art of Kodokan Judo in March 1956. Owing to his extensive experience, he quickly got promoted to First Dan Blackbelt, after hurdling a rigid examination conducted jointly by Mr. Yuichi Hirose (6th Dan),and Sumiyuki Kotani (8th Dan) in Cebu City in November 1957.
He subsequently participated in regional and national judo tournaments in Cebu City and Manila from 1959 to 1965. He emerged as runner-up during the Visayan (Central Philippines) Regional Judo Championship in Cebu City, in March 1959.
Cacoy also trained in free-style wrestling in Cebu City in 1940, learned much more of it in 1957, and also received training from top Manila instructors of the Philippine National Wrestling Association in 1963.
In his intense desire to raise his level of skills in mixed martial arts, Cacoy also practiced Shorin Ryu Karate and Aikido, and snippets of Chinese Martial Arts.
Presently, his ranks in mixed martial arts are, as follows:
1. Eskrima-12th Dan ————— Dec. 1988
2. Eskrido-12th Dan ————— Dec. 1988
3. Pangamot-12th Dan ————— Dec. 1988
4. Karate-6th Dan (United States Martial Arts Association) ————— Jan. 2006
5. Aikido-6th Dan (United States Martial Arts Association) ————— Jan. 2006
6. Juijitso-8th Dan (United States Martial Arts Association)————— Feb. 2006
7. Judo-8th Dan (United States Martial Arts Association)————— Feb. 2006
When Word War II broke out in December 1941, Cacoy found himself inducted into the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) in March 1942. Although, the Allied forces met their defeat in the Philippines, he refused to surrender to the Japanese, and instead, joined the Cebu Guerilla Movement Southern Sector, based in Carcar. He saw action in September of that year, and more of it, when he was reassigned to the Central Sector in Cebu City, in early 1944.
He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and became Combat Intelligence Officer (Asst. Regimental S-2) in the 86th Infantry Regiment in 1944. He became Platoon Commander in the 38th Military Police Company, and was tasked to serve as defense tactics instructor during the training of the 38th and 39th companies in Dumanjug, Cebu from June to August, 1945. Later, he served as Detachment Commander in Tuburan, Cebu and attended Provost Marshal School(for officers) in Tarlac from June to August 1946.
He resumed his post at the Tuburan Detachment, until he returned to civilian life in 1947. After undergoing annual active duty training in Cebu in 1951, he was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. And after another training in 1969, he was again promoted to the rank of Captain in the Reserve Force, Armed Forces of the Philippines, in July 1970.
A mentor to the very core, Cacoy, first and foremost, is a teacher.
He served as a Kodokan Judo instructor at the University of San Carlos, Cebu City from 1962 to 1968. He was the martial arts instructor of the University of the Visayas College of Criminology form 1964 up to late November 1991. He also taught Eskrima at the Cebu Central Colleges (now University of Cebu) from 1971 up to 1984.
Incidentally, Cacoy holds a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the University of Southern Philippines, Cebu City, where he graduated in June 1950.
Supreme Grandmaster Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete received the Presidential Trophy, after he became champion in the First National Open Eskrima (Arnis) Championships (Masters Division) in Cebu City, on March 24, 1979. He got another Presidential Trophy, after he emerged champion in the National Invitational Eskrima (Arnis) Championships in Manila, on August 19, 1979.
He headed the Doce Pares Team (composed of lawyer Amorito V. Cañete, David Odilao Jr., Bonifacio Uy and Arnulfo Cuesta) that joined the National Arnis of the Philippines (NARAPHIL) group on April 24, 1981, for a six-month tour in some big cities in the United States. This was in response to a U.S invitation for Eskrima (Arnis) seminars, workshops and training.
Inside and outside Philippine universities, Cacoy – together with Master Amorito Cañete, Nonito Limchua and Primo Albaño – taugh stick-fighting in military camps in Cebu City, Metro Manila and, inside Malacañang Palace.
Undefeated in more than 100 death matches, Cacoy was the only Filipino martial artist invited to join other martial artists from China, Japan, Russia, Korea and other Asian countries in the World Ancient Martial Arts Festival in Adelaide, south Australia in August 1988.
He was featured in the 1982 BBC (British Broadcasting Corp.) TV Documentary "Way of the Warrior" since Eskrima was chosen as one of the 7 Best Martial Arts in Asia. Subsequently BBC published the book “Way of the Warrior” in London in 1982 that also featured SGM Cacoy Canete.
While actively pursuing his passion in mastering the different forms of Martial Arts, especially Eskrima, he was also employed at the Cebu Pepsi Cola Bottling Company for 25 years. And, from 1963 through 1973, he had a stint as President of the Pepsi Cola United Workers Union.
Cacoy was inducted into the Halls of Fame, to wit:
1. Filipino Martial Arts Legend Award, Doce Pares Hall of Fame, Cebu City, June 8, 2012.
2. Martial Arts Icon Award, Doce Pares Hall of Fame, Cebu City, November 13, 2010.
3. United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Sheraton Downtown Nashville TN, Aug 1, 2009.
4. Doce Pares Legend, Cebu City, March 8, 2008.
5. Supreme Grandmaster of the Year, Pakistan, 2007.
6. Cebu Eskrima Society, Cebu City, November 26, 2006.
7. Martial Arts History Museum, Los Angeles, CA, October 16, 2006.
8. World Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame, Los Angeles, CA, June 2005.
9. Philippine Martial Arts Legend, St., Louis, Missouri, July 2003.
10. World Martial Arts, Columbus, Ohio, July 2003.
11. Most Distinguished Grandmaster of the Year, St., Louis, Missouri, July 2003.
12. Blackbelt Hall of Fame,Los Angeles, CA, December 2000.
13. Filipino Martial Arts Hall of Fame, El Paso, Texas, July 2000.
14. Cebu City Sports Hall of Fame, Cebu City, February 1977.
Cacoy received other awards, as follows:
1. Life Membership Award from the United States Martial Arts Association in Missouri, USA in November, 2006
2. Sokeship Council World Head of Family Award from the Australian Masters during the World Eskrima Championships in Cebu City, in November, 2006.
3. Charter member of the Council of Grandmasters, United States Martial Arts Association, in Missouri, July, 2003.
4. “Most Notable Cebuanos of the Century” from the Cebuano Study Center and Historical Association in Cebu City, in January, 2000.
5. “One of the Four Outstanding Individuals” of Cebu City by the Cebu Historical Center in February, 2000.
6. Plaque of Recognition for his dedication to martial arts by Korean General Choi Hong III, President of the International Taekwondo in Connecticut, USA in 2000.
7. Certificate of Recognition for “Outstanding Achievement” in the field of sports by the Cebu News Correspondents Club, Inc., in Cebu City, on February 5, 1982.
8. Plaque of Recognition as the “Most Outstanding Athlete in 1979″ by the Cebu Queen City Club, Cebu City, June 14, 1980.
He founded Eskrido, which is Eskrima integrated with Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, in 1948. Aikido later became part of the System that, as a whole revolutionalized Doce Pares Eskrima.
He also developed Pangamot, a bare-handed defense system, and pushed for full-contact fighting with armor, which he pioneered during the National Eskrima Championships in Cebu City, on March 24, 1979.
He has conducted Eskrima, Eskrido and Pangamot seminars in the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, Germany, Poland and Australia since 1981. He performed an Eskrima and Eskrido exhibition at the Cacoy Doce Pares World Federation Eskrima Championships in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 7 – 9, 2007.
Cacoy married a spiritual warrior, Herminia Alojipan in 1946. They have been blessed with seven loving children: Alex, Bernadetter, Catherine, Dennis, Edgar, Faye and Glenn, who all learned martial arts from him. Sadly, his wife, Herminia died in February 1999, and his son, Edgar followed in October 2001.
He is the author of Doce Pares Basic Eskrima published in 1988. Pangamot (Barehanded Techniques) in 2004, Eskrido (Eskrim, Jiu-jitsu, Judo, Aikido, Integrated) in 2004, And Eskrima-Arnis Techniques in 2009. The Book, entitled “The Fastest Olisi Fighter”, is his biography written by Jun Cañizares in 1999.