A Tribute to Manong Joe A. Pacpaco
Masters Magazine Winter 2008 Issue
Gone But Not Forgotten: Joe Pacpaco
by Tony Somera
Joe Arruejo Pacpaco was born in Vigan Illocos Sur Philippines on November 24, 1909. Pacpaco arrived in San Francisco in 1930 on the President Jefferson. From there, young Pacpaco sailed to Stockton, California.
As did most of the Filipinos who arrived during this first wave, Pacpaco took his first job cutting celery. He worked in the many different Filipino farm labor camps in the San Joaquin Valley and occasionally took work in Marysville and Yuba City, California. Pacpaco's teacher was a man named Francisco Realin from Santa Catalina, Philippines. His system of play was the cabaroan, or new style of arnis escrima. His style was larga mano or long hand/weapon style; he also practiced abierta or the open body style of arnis escrima and an empty hand style similar to cadena de mano. Pacpaco's larga mano was different from Leo Giron's larga mano. Pacpaco incorporated the abierta (open) body footwork to his larga mano. Pacpaco's footwork is attributed to his natural open foot movement.
Joe Pacpaco had a unique gift of playing. He was left-handed, very graceful, and to the point.
Pacpaco and Giron would play together in Giron's basement and at the Filipino Grand Lodge just half a block from both Pacpaco and Giron's house and a block from Inosanto's house. Pacpaco was the person that Giron had in mind to teach the "killer" style to Dan Inosanto. Pacpaco was also a life member of the Legionarios Del Trabajo and a member of the Worshipful Mabini Lodge, with more than 60 years of service to the Filipino lodge. Manong Joe was also a life member of the Bahala Na Martial Arts Association and an honorary Guro.
It was my honor and privilege to have a chance to play with Manong Joe. His kind and humble demeanor came naturally, along with his sharp personality and stories of years gone by. Manong Joe Pacpaco truly was a hidden treasure.