LIV­ING FIRE

Black­smiths keep fire of fam­ily’s hun­dred-year ar­ti­sanal craft burn­ing

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Front Page - Text: Deneb R. Batu­can Im­ages: Jac­que­line Jala

IN THIS IS­SUE: THE MANY FACETS OF FIRE AND HEAT

THun­dred years here’s the con­stant sound of metal pound­ing against each other with a la­bored thrust of a heavy ham­mer. Hot and fresh out of a burn­ing brick oven, the piece of metal is shaped with a ham­mer, a pair of huge tongs and primeval force. Sparks fly with each con­tact as the glow­ing, hot metal yields to the ham­mer’s will. Af­ter a while, the forged piece goes back to the em­bers, en­gulfed by fire again, only to be struck again by the ham­mer into the shape it needs to be­come.

It takes great strength and skill to be a black­smith, or pan­day in Ce­buano. Their work is found ev­ery­where — the wrought iron that fences your house, the dag­gers used to plow fields and plant pro­duce, the knives used to cut food — yet we rarely give any thought on the stren­u­ous and in­tri­cate work th­ese men do to craft a piece of metal into some­thing use­ful for ev­ery­day life.

Along Basak, San Ni­co­las, Cebu City, a well-known knife shop stands along the road. Its walls are be­decked with dif­fer­ent kinds of knives, metal works as wells as spe­cial mar­tial arts swords and dag­gers. Silva’s Hunt­ing Knife Shop has been in the busi­ness for 42 years, craft­ing metal, alu­minum and steel.

Owned by cou­ple Jun and Mi­la­gros Silva, the shop sup­plies dif­fer­ent kinds of dag­gers and knives fit for var­i­ous users from farm­ers in Ne­gros to mar­tial artists in Cebu.

The shop has been in their fam­ily for ap­prox­i­mately a hun­dred years since it was orig­i­nally started by Jun’s grand­fa­ther. “Wala pa to’y dis­play sauna. Maghuwat lang ang mu-or­der mintras gabuhat siya (There were no dis­plays be­fore. Those who made or­ders would wait while he works),” Mila said.

The ac­quired skill in bend­ing metal and steel has been passed down to Jun’s fa­ther, then to him and to his chil­dren. It’s a spe­cial fam­ily legacy that has been kept alive from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion and a busi­ness that has put food on the ta­ble for many years.

The na­tive knives, like a bolo and sun­dang, have many dif­fer­ent kinds for dif­fer­ent kinds of uses. Silva’s sup­plies na­tive knives to Con­so­la­cion, Toledo, Ne­gros, Lapu-Lapu, among other ar­eas. Of­ten they have a spe­cific type of knife for each town or prov­ince. Con­so­la­cion has the san­duko, which is used to split large wood and of­ten has a carved wooden han­dle. In Ne­gros, they use gikay, which is used to cut sug­ar­cane.

Aside from na­tive knives, Silva’s could also make sleek Samu­rai swords and dif­fer­ent mar­tial arts dag­gers. Th­ese are of­ten cus­tom-made to the buyer’s needs — not to men­tion to­tally bad ass. Short­age of iron men

Jun and Mi­la­gros’s chil­dren, who are also black­smiths, are man­ag­ing their own knife shops in Lahug and Tal­isay. But Mila ex­pressed a wish they have al­ways wanted for a long time: branches out­side Cebu.

“Gana­han gyud mi mag­tukod, pero ang prob­lema kuwang ang pan­day. Lisud kaayo man­gita (We re­ally want to set up branches, but we lack black­smiths. It's hard to find one th­ese days),” Mila said. There is a short­age of black­smiths to­day, which wor­ries Mila. In their shop, they only have two black­smiths who pro­duce all of their prod­ucts.

It may look like a black­smith just ham­mers a piece of metal, but it is truly la­bo­ri­ous work that en­tails dis­ci­plined cre­ativ­ity and an iron will. In this age of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, the sense of ful­fill­ment that a black­smith gets from craft­ing an in­trin­si­cally beau­ti­ful and use­ful metal prod­uct is hard to com­pre­hend for the end user or mere spectator. But we owe it to th­ese black­smiths to re­al­ize that they come from a long line of ar­ti­sans prac­tic­ing an an­cient craft that is es­sen­tial in forg­ing the func­tional, com­fort­able world that we know now.

Their work is found ev­ery­where... yet we rarely give any thought on the stren­u­ous and in­tri­cate work th­ese men do to craft a piece of metal into some­thing use­ful for ev­ery­day life.

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