(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will share with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)
What is interesting about fencing?
It’s like playing chess. Para siyang chess with movements. Kailangan mo talagang mag- isip. Hindi ka na lang basta sumusugod . Kailangan mong i-check ang situation kung papano ka a-atake.
Joel Landicho. Top Filipino fencer in Spain
When did you realize that you wanted to do fencing?
Noong nasa University of the East pa ako. It was by accident. ‘Yun lang kasi ang tugma na P.E. subject sa sked ko. Then I decided to try it. Tapos okay naman.
But before that, did you have any idea what fencing was all about?
Before that, wala kong idea about fencing. Sa P.E. lang talaga. Yung first days talaga, I liked it na. Interesting kasi ang fencing eh. Tapos unti-unting naging maganda ang performance ko. Sa mga laro namin sa P.E., hindi ako basta-basta natatalo. Ang training ay two days a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays . One hour and a half.
How many students were there in your class?
Sa P.E. namin, ilan lang kami, mga 16 to 20 students.
What happened after you finished your P.E. class?
After one year, since interesado talaga ako , nag-try out ako sa varsity ng school. Nakapasok naman ako. Then, I trained with them. Dalawa kasi ang purpose ko noon, gusto kong maging part ng varsity team at makakuha ng scholarship.
Was the competition for the scholarship stiff?
For the scholarship, yes. Kasi bago pa lang noon ang fencing sa UAAP kaya konti lang ang binibigyan ng scholarship.
How did you prepare for the scholarship application?
Actually walang preparation na kailangan. Basta nag-training lang ako kasama ng mga varsity. Isa sa mga requirements ay isang medal sa UAAP. Kaya hindi agad ako nakakuha ng scholarship kasi wala pa akong medal.
When did you get your first medal?
After a year. First medal ko, gold. It was a team effort actually. Inter-university lang. Naging three times a week na ang training ko sa school. Tapos sa sa Quezon City Sports Complex and ‘pag Friday sa Philsports. I was in my second year. I was taking up Electronics and Communication Engineering.
Then I got the scholarship on my third year. Halos naka-20 medals na ako noon. Interschool, UAAP and National Open. Yung sa scholarship ko, my tuition was covered and may konting allowance. Tapos ang requirement ay dapat mapasa ang majority ng subjects.
Joel harvesting medals during his varsity days at the University of the East.
Why is fencing not popular?
Hindi siya popular kasi pag naisip ng mga tao na expensive ang fencing, hindi na nila tina-try.
Do you plan to be a professional fencer?
Yes. It’s really a dream. I want to be a professional fencer.
What was your ranking?
Sa Philippines, I was number 8.
Were you able to compete outside the Philippines?
No. Kasi top 4 lang ang nagco-compete internationally.
Why did you come to Spain?
I came here in 2006. After passing the board exam I decided to join my family.
How did you learn about the fencing club in Spain?
Through a friend, Ignacio. It was my second year in Spain, in 2007. But before kasi, akala ko mahal mag-fencing dito. Pero hindi pala. Papahiramin pala nila ng mga gamit ang mga new members. Pero hindi nagtagal, unti-unti na akong bumibili ng mga gamit. Fencing shoes lang kasi ang dala ko from the Philippines. Meron din kaming membership monthly fees na binabayaran sa club. Masaya ako. At last, makakalaro uli ako. Nagtre-train ako ng 2 to 3 days a week after work. Sa training, nagpakitang gilas na agad ko. They saw me perform and sabi nila magaling daw ang coach ko sa Pilipinas. Hindi ko sinabi na number 8 ako sa Pilipinas.
Joel now in a Spanish team
How are your clubmates?
Alam kong maraming magagaling dito. Iyung mga nakakalaro ko natatalo ko naman. Magaling sila pero bihira yung magaling talaga. Tapos later on nalaman ko na yung mga magagaling wala sa club. Nandoon sila sa national team nagtre-training.
What do you do during the fight?
Yung natutunan ko sa Pilipinas, ina-apply ko sa moves ko . Siempre, mag-attack ka muna pero fake lang para malaman mo ang moves ng kalaban. Based sa reaction niya, malalaman mo na kung anong klase siyang kalaban.
When was your first competition in Spain?
After one year na. I competed under the name of the club, Cardenal Cisneros. The competition was in Barcelona and I was the only Filipino. I placed 36th out of 75 players. Maraming natuwa sa result ng performance ko. I was congratulated when I came back to Madrid.
Winning with the rest of his teammates
What was your most memorable competition?
It was also in Barcelona, October 2010. I placed second. Nanalo ako ng Cup. I was very happy. It was my first time.
Joel’s first win outside the Philippines
Is the Filipino community aware about your achievements?
Only my Filipino friends.
Do you think it is important that the Filipino community is aware that somebody is representing the Philippines in competitions here in Spain?
Oo naman. Kasi at least may konting suporta, moral support.
With your Spanish citizenship coming out soon, will you be representing Spain in your future competitions?
At the moment, since hindi pa ako Spanish citizen, hindi pa ako qualified mag-represent ng Spain. Pang-team lang ako. Pero kapag na-grant na ang citizenship ko, mas maraming suporta ang natatanggap ng Spanish citizen. Hindi ko naman kayang suportahan ang sarili ko ‘pag nag-represent ng Pilipinas. Dream ko kasi mag compete internationally. I competed in La Coruña for the World Cup and I represented the Philippines. I placed 64th. Alam naman nila doon sa Philippines na I was representing our country and they know about my Spanish citizenship application. I coordinate my participation with them. In February next year, kapag hindi pa ako Spanish citizen, I will represent the Philippines.
Have you competed outside of Spain?
I played at the Campeonato de Europa representing the fencing club of Spain. It was in Italy last April 2011. The Russians were really good. Also, the French Olympic medalists. We did not win. But it was a good experience. I learned a lot from that competition. Dapat palaging confident ka.
Whenever you lose or win, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Magtraining pa ng magtraining. ‘Pag nananalo naman ako, ganoon din. More training. Siyempre ‘pag tumataas na yung ranking mo, gusto mong mag improve ng mag-improve pa . Training pa rin.
You live in both worlds and you have competed internationally as a team, what are the things that should be improved by the Philippine fencing team?
More international competitions. Kulang kasi sa budget. Kailangan nilang pumunta sa Europe para magtraining. Nandito kasi yung magagaling. Normally yung mga magagaling katulad ng mga North Americans and South Americans, pumupunta sila sa Europe para magtraining sa Italy, sa France. Kailangan mong makalaban ng madalas ang mga magagaling. Para mahasa pa. Kung ka-level mo lang yung kalaban mo, gagaling ka pero konti lang. Pero kung talagang magaling yung nagiging kalaban mo na talagang binubugbog ka, tiyak na malaki ang magiging improvement mo.
Of all the competitors, who do you think are the best fencers?
The Italians, French and Russians.
What are your plans in the future?
I want to play until I reach 37 years old. Although meron ngang players na 60 years old na naglalaro pa rin. I want to be a coach in the Philippines.
Do you have a favourite fencer?
I admire this Japanese fencer, Ota Yuki.
Your dream competition?
The Olympic Games.
Achille Marozzo, a Bolognese fencing master, once said, “In these modern times, many men are wounded for not having weapons or knowledge of their use.” For his part, Joel Enriquez Landicho, not only knows that he’s got a weapon in his hand but also knows how to use it.
Last October 8, 2011, he competed at the TNR FLORETE FEM Y MASC MADRID 2011 organized by the Real Federación Española de Esgrima (Royal Spanish Fencing Federation) where he brought home the second place cup. This victory (added to his previous points in 2010 and 2011) catapulted him to the number one spot according to the Ranking Nacional Florete Masculino Absoluto.
Congratulations, Joel! Filipinos in Spain are proud of you!