With sadness we announce the passing of Tatang Baltazar “Bo” Sayoc.
He passed away on January 3, 2007 at his home in Cavite, Philippines.
After his time in the Merchant Marines, Tatang Bo immigrated to the United States in 1962 and introduced his children to the Martial Arts at a very young age. By the time his eldest children were in their early teens they were already assisting in running his school in Queens, New York. This was the time of the largest migration of Filipino Martial Artists on the East Coast. They were all welcomed and hosted by Tatang Bo Sayoc and the Sayoc family. The then relatively unknown weapon masters would dine, train and exchange ideas about the direction of their equally obscure art. As those who have known him will all state, Tatang Bo was always open to all ideas and evolution of the arts.
In time, these men would become a veritable who’s who in the Martial Arts.
His children exposed to some of the very best weapon experts on the planet on a daily basis.
“That’s was just the way it is” as Tatang Bo would often say.
By the early 80′s Tatang Bo quietly moved his family to SouthWest Florida and worked as a correctionals officer until his retirement in the early nineties. He worked quietly, the inmates never knew he taught martial arts until they had seen a local tv crew cover his school years later. He would often tell his students of which techniques he found useful and what he felt was unusable in that environment. Everything he taught was based on whether or not it could be of applicable value. He did all this with very little need for personal acclaim or self – promotion. Although he never stated it out loud, one could tell that he valued the FMA so much that instead of keeping it a family art he would open his doors once again in such a small Southern community. One that collectively barely even knew where the Philippine islands were, let alone the words Kali, Arnis or Eskrima.
The Florida schools were literally small humble warehouses of concrete and sweat, and many students who came looking for a commercialized school or a traditional “eastern” martial art would eventually realize Tatang Bo’s school was not for them.
If Tatang Bo didn’t like what he saw the individual was kindly turned away or directed elsewhere.A student’s first day was spent getting finger-printed, photographed for ID and evaluated. Then you were handed live machetes and sticks. The evaluation never ceased. Only those who could peel away the layers from Tatang Bo’s teachings were allowed to hang around. He was developing Feeder- based students without ever stating so. In time, he knew that his sons would eventually take over the family art and would often say so. In the meantime, he would always take students to see the now established FMA luminaries if they were anywhere in the state of Florida. He wanted the Florida students to experience a small slice of what it was like during the old days. A sense of the history of the Filipino arts. Tatang Bo was always greeted by them as a brother.
“Where had he been?” “What have the Sayocs been up to?”
Tatang Bo was doing what he had always done, stayed in the sidelines and allow others to shine. Promote everyone’s events as much as he can. Hone his skills. Evolve his art. Get his students out there in the public doing demos, almost every weekend – up and down the Florida coastline, often in open tournaments when they wouldn’t be allowed to participate unless they had on a traditional white gi.
Tatang Bo would often come in to class from an overnight shift still wearing his uniform. Or get ready to work right after the night classes. He would change into his workout attire and he was good to go. He would never miss a day, he was always in his school teaching the handful of students. The schools he had were always small in number, it always felt like you were a family just gathering around to train and talk. He often spoke about his family and their accomplishments in FMA. By the time a student met Tatang’s sons it was if they’d known them all along. As quiet as he was about his own skills, he was in contrast very eager to let everyone know about his family’s accomplishments. He was always placing the spotlight on those he felt were worthy of it.
By the early nineties, Tatang Bo had established his school and retired to Imus, Cavite in the Philippines. He visited the states a couple of more times, once more to record his Finger Touch curriculum. Several years later, in frailer heatlh due to several strokes Tatang attended the annual Sayoc Sama Sama and witnessed how much his family art’s had grown. He was still in good humor, and perhaps it was because he was able to see that all the effort had been worth it. It was left unsaid but many knew it was probably the final time they would be in his presence. As always, Tatang Bo was more interested in what you had done than what he was going through.
“That’s was just the way it is.”