Giron® Arnis Escrima
Bahala Na® Martial Arts Association
Grandmaster Emeritus Leo M. Giron
Leovigildo "Leo" Miguel Giron was born in Bayambang a little barrio in the province of
Pangasinan, Philippines on August 20, 1911. Young Giron first started his training in the
Filipino arts because of the neighborhood children and bullies that would take advantage of
him and others. Giron soon learned, however, that if he stood up to hem and made one of
them cry, the rest would run away and leave him alone.
All of Giron's early training was with family members. They would train under the mango tree
late at night. Giron would first hold the lantern for the training until his father had asked the
teacher to train young Giron. His training started in 1921 and lasted until 1926 until Giron
would set sail on the USS President Lincoln for America.
Giron landed in San Francisco in November 1926 and was picked up by his cousin and
brought to Stockton, California. During this time Stockton, California had the largest
population of Filipinos in American that it would earn the nickname "Little Manila". Young
Giron would work in various areas in Stockton until in 1929 when he would move to
Meridian, California to pick prunes. During this time he would meet a man by the name of
Flaviano Vergara. Vergara was from the town of Santa Cruz in Ilocos Sur Luzon, Philippines.
Vergara was the top student of Dalmacio Bergoina who defeated the great champion
Santiago Toledo. Giron and Vergara would "play" deep in the orchards so no one would be
able to watch the secret training of the deadly art of Arnis / Escrima. There training would
last from 1929 until 1932. Vergara and Giron would meet again directly after the outbreak of
World War II. They would train again for the last time from October 1942 until January 1943.
In 1937 Giron was initiated into the Legionarios del Trabajo in America. The Legionarios del
Trabajo is a fraternal order or lodge, they would be known as one of the most powerful and
riches of any other Filipino lodge. This organization with membership at the time would top
over 3,000 members, 86 men's lodges and 12 women's only lodges.
On September 24, 1942 he was inducted into the United States Army and would be attached
to the 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiment and would later be assigned to the famous 978th
Signal Group and The Allied Intelligence Bureau. This was a select group of men that served
as secret operatives for General Douglas Macarthur. Then Sergeant Leo Giron would be
dropped behind enemy lines by submarine nearly one full year before any America Soldier
would set foot on Philippine soil. It was there assignment to search out the enemy, extending
lines of communication, securing vital weather data and obtaining military information and
not to be detected by the enemy. Sergeant Giron lead a group of American and Philippine
soldier's through the most hazardous conditions of Would War II deep in the jungles of the
Philippines. Many encounters are documented in the United States Library of Congress in
Washington DC. Because of his contributions during World War II Sergeant Giron would
receive, The Bronze Star Medal, The Philippine Liberation Ribbon, The Asiatic Pacific
Campaign Medal, The American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and a
letter of commendation ordered by the President of the United States of America.
Giron would return to civilian life as World War II hero and a part of America's Greatest
Generation. But, without anyone knowing he would return too live a new and normal life in
America as a Filipino American, not pondering on his heroics during the War. After the war
Giron would return to Stockton, California to raise a family.
Because of a person back East that had killed several nursing students, most of them
Filipino women this would enrage Giron that only if they would know self defense they could
have try to subdue this maniac. So in 1968 Leo Giron would open his first licensed Bahala
Na club in Tracy California.
In 1970 Grand Master Leo M. Giron and wife Alberta would move to Stockton along with his
Bahala Na Club. And in 1973 the first student to graduate from his system would be
Stockton born and World Renown Martial Artist Dan Inosanto. Along with martial art greats
such as Dentoy Revillar, Richard Bustillo and Ted Lucaylucay. In 1979 the first meeting was
called to order of the Bahala Na Filipino Martial Arts Association. Grand Master Giron was
the founder and leader of this Association that is governed by a Constitution and by laws.
Grand Master Giron's contributions to the Filipino Martial Arts in general were enormous. He
was known as the Father of Larga Mano in America. A World War II veteran that knew how
to use his weapon and will be always remembered as a great man, a humble man, with
dignity, love in his heart, a living legend and martial art Icon. He was a super star, he was
our star and he was our shinning light of life. He gave us all the liberty of freedom to learn of
life and the arts, Equality in having the necessary ability and strength, Fraternity in which the
same beliefs in work along with fellowship and family.
Grand Master Giron left us with a legacy that we must all carry on with all of those that
would like to share in his system.
Grandmaster Antonio Somera
Antonio “Tony” Somera is a lifelong resident of Stockton, California.
In 1980 he became a member in good standing of the Legionarios Del Trabajo General Luna
lodge. He was sponsored by his father, Celestino Somera and Leo Giron. Tony is a life
member of the lodge and was transferred to become a member of the Daguhoy lodge.
One of the reasons for the transfer was because of his work on a Filipino American museum
he created at the Daguhoy Lodge building. Tony discovered the vast treasures now held in
the museum collection while doing some cleaning at the lodge during the transition of the
Bahala Na Martial Arts Association from their training club located in North Stockton to South
Stockton. Over the years many people had lived at the lodge. Stored in the basement, and
almost forgotten, were years of personal mementos left behind as the fortunes of life
fluctuated. There were pictures, posters, newspapers, magazines, personal and group
photos, musical scores, poetry, essays, letters and even books of jokes that were written by
the manongs (elders). There were beds, tables and chairs from the period. There were
receipts and ledgers from small businesses of the time. There were zoot suits, clothes,
watches, lighters and other personal items. Tony even found a hand forged sword, spear
and shield! Some of the most striking items are the many military medals, memorabilia and
uniforms that were left behind as the heroic Filipino American soldiers, who fought for our
country in WWII, moved on to continue their normal lives. These World War II veterans were
from the world famous and highly decorated 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry along with General
Douglas MacArthur’s 978th Signal Crop. They were the first known commandos of their
caliber during World War II history.
Along with members of the Bahala Na® Martial Arts, Tony Somera renovated the space and
put the collected materials in order for viewing. They created a museum space that
approximates the living conditions of the time being displayed along with unique and
fascinating objects that make history come alive. It is a wonderful snap shot back in time of a
dynamic period in Stockton history and American history!
Tony was a life member of FALNHS and on the board of trustees for the Little Manila
Foundation since 2002. The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) is truly a
community-based organization whose mission is “...to preserve, document, and present
Filipino American history and to support scholarly research and artistic works which reflect
that rich past...”. The Little Manila Foundation advocates for the historic preservation of the
Little Manila Historic Site in Stockton, California and provides education and leadership to
revitalize our Filipina/o American community.
Along with Tony Somera’s community service, Tony was also a leader in the martial arts
community. He was a 3rd degree black belt in Goju Royu Karate gained in 1974. He was
also the highest ranking student and vice president in Mande Muda Silat.
However, he is most well known for being Grand Master Tony Somera of the Bahala Na®
Martial Arts, Giron® Arnis Escrima. As a direct result of superior skill and devotion to the
principles, philosophy and purpose of Bahala Na Martial Arts combined with leadership and
his master level Instructorship, Master Tony Somera was promoted to the rank and
responsibility of Grand Master by the late Grand Master and founder of Bahala Na® Martial
Arts Leo M. Giron. Grand Master Somera promoted the art of Giron® Arnis Escrima along
with its rich Filipino History and culture by providing opportunities for students and
community members to visit historic sites and learn Filipino American history through bi-
annual “affiliate camps” held in Stockton. Tony Somera is the only person ever to be
promoted to the rank of Master and then Grand Master by the late Grand Master Emeritus
Leo M. Giron.