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HomePublic LifePUBLICUS | From fantasy to reality: the origins of the term "battle...

PUBLICUS | From fantasy to reality: the origins of the term “battle royale” and its political meaning

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The anticipated showdown between sitting Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia and former solon Afredo Abelardo Benitez has led to observers and officials to describe it as a “battle royale,” a political contest that some say would up the ante of politics in the urban center of Sugarlandia.

But what really is a “battle royale?” How did the term evolve and how did it find its way to common usage?

Is it fitting to describe the anticipated though still unconfirmed showdown between Leonardia and Benitez as such?

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The website dictionary.com defines the term as a noun and as an adjective.

As a noun, it is “a fight, often to the death, in which more than two combatants are engaged and the victor is the last surviving participant.

As an adjective, it is “of or relating to a genre of fiction, television show, movie, or video game that features this kind of elimination fight to the death: battle royale FPS games; a battle royale movie trilogy set in a dystopian future.”

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The Merriam-Webster online dictionary notes the first use of the term in 1671 as a noun defined as” “a fight participated in by more than two combatants.”

It is unclear though if it was used to describe a specific battle though some literature describe the term as having evolved from the medieval melee in Europe where hundreds or thousands of mounted knights would fight in a free-for-all and the last knight standing or mounted will be declared a victor.

It eventually found its way to the United States and was made into a sport involving slaves who would bash each other with bags filled with cotton.

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It was also a melee fight in wrestling.

The term entered popular culture by the turn of the century, however, because of the Japanese movie “Battle Royale” based on a book with the same title.

バトル・ロワイアル or Batoru Rowaiaru in Japanese was written for the screen by Kunji Fukasaku based on the 1999 novel of Koushun Takami.

The film is believed to have inspired the Hunger Games series that is also a trilogy and is about a group of junior high students that the Japanese totalitarian government force to fight to the death.

The film’s setting is in a dystopian society.

In politics, the term has been used repeatedly during Bacolod elections to describe the clash of equally-matched powerful candidates.

Among the early battle royales here was between two veteran politicians, Alfredo “Bongkoy” Montelibano Jr. and Romeo Guanzon for the mayorship of Bacolod City.

Montelibano, a former provincial governor and first mayor of Bacolod as a chartered city, is a scion of the powerful Montelibano clan that formed one-third of the sugar bloc, a powerful aggrupation of the Negros-based Ledesma and Montelibano families and the Lopez clan of Iloilo.

Some historians say the bloc was so powerful it can sweep presidential candidates to power.

Guanzon, on the other hand, was also a sugar industry leader who fought against the Marcos dictatorship.

Montelibano founded the Partido Paglaum (Party of Hope), reputed to be the first local political party not just local chapters of national ones like the Liberal or Nacionalista.

Guanzon, on the other hand, led the Brotherhood for Better Bacolod.

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Julius D. Mariveles
Julius D. Mariveles
An amateur cook who has a mean version of humba, the author has recently tried to make mole negra, the Mexican sauce he learned by watching shows of master chef Rick Bayless. A journalist since 19, he has worked in the newsrooms of radio, local papers, and Manila-based news organizations. A stroke survivor, he now serves as executive editor of DNX.
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