Ariel Coronado – In Memoriam
Ariel Coronado was a great friend and dedicated student of Mark Mikita from 2010 until his untimely death in 2022.
A welder, machinist and metal worker by profession, he was the Panday or bladesmith of the school and made all of our training blades. He also built apparatus for the school for the students to train on. Working with heavy steel all day, every day, he was so immensely strong and solid that one of his fellow students respectfully referred to him as the Mexican meat wall. Possessed of the most vicious sense of humor, he could crack up the entire school at will.
There are truly no words to express the depth of loss we all feel at his passing. Surrounded by the innumerable weapons he made for us, his spirit lives on in this space and he will be long remembered...
Below is the text of the Eulogy Guro Mark wrote and delivered at Ariel's funeral.
At the end of one of the last text messages I received from Ariel – when I, like everyone else, thought this impervious tank of a human being would be back on his feet in no time – he thanked me for always being there for him and then told me that he considered me his best friend...
He was my best friend as well, and I’m here for him today, to do the very last thing a best friend wants to do but must... that being to carry him to his grave.
I was Ariel’s martial arts teacher.
From the earliest beginnings of our teacher-student relationship, Ariel distinguished himself as a voracious learner. He asked questions incessantly, and by incessantly, I don’t just mean during and immediately after class... no. I mean long after the damn class was over. I would get text messages at two o'clock in the morning. But as a teacher, so long as they are taking the lessons to heart and doing the work, nothing is better than a student who brings that borderline-ridiculous level of enthusiasm. I answered those 2:00 am questions without complaint or even the suggestion that he should hold them for a more reasonable hour. After all, why on earth would I ever try to inhibit or in any way limit his passion for learning? With that passion, Ariel very quickly emerged as one of the best students I ever had and eventually rose to the position of Senior Student, an honor and distinction he never once bore with arrogance, for he never stopped being that wide-eyed student I first met.
His fellow students, many of whom are here today, will tell you that any class he was ever a part of was all the better for his presence.
The Filipino martial arts are not traditional in the way you might think of Japanese or Chinese martial arts. It is a tribal culture and the sense of ‘tribe’ is essential in fully understanding the history and extraordinary depth and breadth of their legendary indigenous fighting arts.
I bring this up because our school is – in that sense – a tribe.
In the Philippines, there are four pillars that bind an indigenous community... The Datu or chieftain. That is my role. Then there are the shamans, healers and advisors. Many of my students have distinguished themselves as such. Then, there are the Bayanis or Baganis, the warriors... The most advanced students hold that status. The fourth pillar is the Panday, the bladesmith... Ariel held that title for all the years he trained with me.
He made all of our training blades and would fashion one-of-a-kind training versions of live blades for each individual student. He also built training apparatus for the school that people, to this day, continuously beg me to give out the designs for, as they are so well made. (Raising an antique Moro kris) This is a sword from the Southern Philippines called a kris. This particular blade is over 200 years old. (Raising an aluminum training kris) Among so many others, Ariel made this training kris for us and, as is the custom in the Filipino martial arts, I have asked my student, Jacob Ira, to take up this blade to honor our fallen brother and bid him farewell as only a fellow Bayani can.
(One of Ariel's fellow students formally salutes his open casket, then performs Karenza)
It was always of paramount importance to Ariel that he be a good father and he often confided in me when he was struggling with issues in his life that he feared might compromise his ideals in that regard... and as many of you know, he set the bar very high for himself. But like all of us, he was fallible.
It was during one of those conversations that continued via texting that I put this challenge to him:
Right now, today, are you being the person you aspire to be? Are you being the faithful spouse, the unconditionally loving parent or the true friend you would want to have? Are you treating yourself like someone you love or someone you hate? Are you eating right, exercising and attending to your spirit? Are you following your dreams? Not someone else’s dreams but your own? Are you happy? All know the way but few actually walk it... will you?
To put it mildly, those words had a huge impact on him and he frequently referred back to that conversation to explain how he was making changes in his life. That I had such a positive influence on him means the world to me.
It is said that we die twice... the first time when we draw our last breath and the second when our name is spoken for the last time. Yesterday (during the wake), I was so moved by the sense of community that is centered on this man. So many friends, so many loved ones, so many people compelled to take time out of their lives to come and say goodbye. Yet, all of us here know that there are so many more in whose lives Ariel left a lasting impression, a memory of his humor, his generosity or his selfless kindness that will endure long after the impulse to speak his name fades away... as it will.
I loved him so much. As a teacher, I can so clearly remember the first day he came to me seeking to learn what it is that I teach. I will never forget his abiding curiosity and eagerness to learn. It never diminished. He was the quintessential student, the exemplar of a passionate learner and the best training partner any student could have.
Long after this sad day, when a new student comes to me and wants to know how to be a good student and master the arts I teach, while I may not mention Ariel’s name – in the description I will give them of how best to conduct themself as a student and what qualities they should bring to the fore – Ariel will be alive again.
When any of us here think of the word friend... or brother... father or son, Ariel will be alive, for I think you’ll all agree that he set the standard for being a true friend and brother... a doting father and a loving son.
The term pallbearer originally comes from the word pall, a decorative cloth used to drape the casket. In the Middle Ages, the pallbearers carried the four corners of the pall, thus "bearing the pall." The pallbearers held the pall in place as other men carried the casket.
I think of that decorative cloth as the tapestry of Ariel’s life – every dream he ever had, his loves, his pain... the things he held most dear. We are all part of that tapestry. So, in a way, we are all pallbearers and we are here to lift up his tapestry – his life – as we join together to take him to his final resting place.
(Lifting the Moro kris high overhead)