BY PET MELLIZA
Ask today’s kids if they knew of the other meaning of “panday” and chances are, they have only one in memory, the carpenter. They don’t know that the term also refers to blacksmith, the one which heats iron or steel into a fiery mass and hammers it to shape – knife, bolo, chisel, plowshare, etc.
One major reason for the diminishing vocabulary is the fading reality itself; the pandayan or smith shop, the panday or the blacksmith, is vanishing.
In my childhood, there were at least two blacksmiths in the poblacion of Igbaras, Iloilo. If I recalled it right, one of them is Jose Santiago who holds shop in “Cayap”, a purok that later became Barangay Poblacion 5.
The other is Pedro Eder whose shop is in our Purok, later known as Brgy. Poblacion 2.
I use the present tense above but be that as it may, these two persons doubled as magnets of farmers ordering blades or reconditioning old ones daily. Their craftsmanship went beyond metals; they also carved wood and bamboo into handles and scabbards. They also worked on rudimentary leather, dried hides of cattle that they wrapped around scabbards as décor and fastener.
I used the term “magnet” above because blacksmiths were indeed in demand then. Imported blades had not flooded the Philippine market yet in my boyhood days, the ‘60s and early ‘70’s. People flocked to the blacksmith to order or repair knives, bolts, nuts, plows, and in rare instances, horse shoes.
Aside from at least two blacksmiths at the poblacion of Igbaras, a mountain town 40 kilometers south of Iloilo, there were also similar craftspeople in rural areas of the town.
The shops had simple gadgets: at most, a bench, an anvil, a sledgehammer, a through carved from a rock to contained water where the red hot metal was dipped for tempering, and a rudimentary furnace block comprising of manual air blower, an open furnace where the metal is heated up underneath a mound of charcoal.
Today, there is neither blacksmith nor pandayan at the town center. They are gone now. I know of one but his shop is in a far barangay.
Santiago passed away in the early ‘70s while Eder in the late ‘70s, a year ahead of my father. The former passed on his skill to his youngest son Jose who managed the smith shop until he departed in the early 2000.
Eder’s only son Aurelio moved away to Mindanao to farm and had no interest in his father’s craft. No one continued the metal works tradition for the two families.
Metal craft, a skill once flourishing among pre-hispanic communities in Panay, has almost completely vanished in Igbaras. Among communities of Ilonggo descent in Tacurong City and neighboring towns in Sultan Kudarat Provinces, in contrast, shops of blacksmiths line up along the national road fabricating different kinds of blades to include those learned the Moros and Ilocanos. They also fabricate spare parts of hand tractors. The blades used in the farm that they craft are rarely seen in Iloilo. I still have to see one, a long blade with a long wooden handle which is held by both hands to cut tall grasses with.
Perhaps my hometown Igbaras is not cut for metal craft. Other towns like Badiangan and Januiay, both in the third district, Iloilo Province, have flourishing shops which adopted news technology like electric blowers that burning the open furnace comprising a mound of charcoal heating up a piece of metal underneath.
There has been no effort on the part of government in Igbaras to train the new generation in the trade like how it revived another vanishing trade called “hablon” or hand weaving.
Hablon in Igbaras got a new leash in life when the municipal government prescribed uniforms from hand woven fabrics produced by women of Brgy. Sta. Barbara, Igbaras. That was during the time of then Mayor Jaime Esmeralda.
The neighboring town of Miag-ao applied a similar formula to extend the life of the hablon, by prescribing the hinabol as exclusive fabric for uniforms.
Incidentally, that can’t be done for locally crafted knives. PNP-6 Director Cipriano Querol will surely oppose any suggestion making local blades a fixture of official uniform.