THE sun’s rays strike the plains first, then shower the foothills of Mount Kanlaon with light. The delay gave me time to walk up the slopes, passing rice and sugarcane fields, beating the heat to locate the house of the local blacksmith. He is well-known in this area as one of the best “panday (blacksmith).”

The trek was made hard by the uneven terrain, and in between tall sugar canes led only by a guide, I can hardly see anything except the sky.

Nestled between trees in a clearing at the edge of a slope stood the blacksmith’s house. A couple of steps from the house was his work-shop or “ang pandayan.”

I was greeted by an old man—probably in his late 60s, the years of hard labor etched in his face and the strength of his muscles.

From childhood he had worked the sugar fields; in his late teens, carried the canes on his shoulders; and reaching maturity, he drove trucks loaded with sugar canes.

Even as he work the route of the sugar worker, he learned the craft of the “panday” from his father when not laboring the fields or driving. The “pandayan” was his way of life, like sugar. When I met him he was teaching the craft not to his son but to a grandson.

Knives, repairs and other small metal objects are the work he does but his forte is making the “bolo.” In the rural areas the bolo is an essential tool. It cuts trees and branches on a pathway, it’s a kitchen tool, and a weapon.

In making the bolo and knives, the “panday” prefers the blade of a leaf spring (“mulye”) as it is made of strong materials being able to carry heavy loads.

The “mulye” is heated using charcoal, blown by a home-made blower to increase the fire’s temperature. The glowing red hot blade is then pounded to shape. As it cools, it is returned to the fire and pounded again until the desired shape is obtained. It is then returned to the fire, heated and dipped in water, repeated again to give it strength.

The bolo gets finishing touches by using an emery wheel or by a grinding stone until it is sharp. With the handle attached, a finished “bolo” is presented to its owner.

The “pandayan” is an ancient craft dating to the time when man started to forge metals. It is a time-honored craft but the craftsman is changing. While in the past, people prefer the quality of work the “panday” makes, today it is easier and faster to buy manufactured knives and bolos, rather than waiting for one to be made by a craftsman. (Clem del Castillo)