|An ABR Cutlery product|
The Filipino diet is what it is today because of a lot of factors that include a variety of ingredients and the cooking experts who use them. A silent purveyor in this cultural chain is the cutler who serves as the enabler of sustenance because without the cutting utensils that he or she produces, the daily grind of farming, cooking, and dining is left to bare hands. Consider a cutlery store as an essential outpost of the blade industry and the workshop where its products are forged as an artillery where they are sharpened to perfection. Aside from knives and bolos, scissors and other types of blades are forged and sold in a cutlery store and workshop.
In Tabaco City where the tabak is popularly associated with the former for its name, the village of Cobo is home to ABR Cutlery. Owned and operated by Albay-native Azucena Boncacas Rodriguez, the store is the biggest in a community where blade-making is a core skill. She employs about forty blacksmiths and the youngest guy who works with his calloused hand at the store's forge is 20 years old. Locally known as a panday, a blacksmith's asset is brute force.
|The Cobo blacksmith workshop|
While booked at the newly-opened Facade By Hotel Fina in Tabaco City, I visited Azucena's store and workshop in Cobo. It's just five minutes away from the boutique hotel where I previously had a restful sleep at its decadent room that's designed in an all-white template.
You can just imagine my change of countenance when I stepped into the sweltering workshop at the back of the store where everything was decked in shades of grey and everyone was perspiring like there was no tomorrow.
|Blades on display at the store|
Squalid But Seriously Busy
To finally stand at the belly of the blade industry, I had to pass through a narrow path that veered into the actual work space. The squalid room looked disorganized at the onset, but it appeared to have designated stations upon close inspection. Strewn about were metal spare parts and tools. Hanging from the decrepit ceiling of the workshop were native fans and water bottles which obviously helped ease the sauna-like room temperature for the workers.
"One also needs to be graceful when working with a co-blacksmith on a blade as a lack of team work will result in a dull product."
Grit and Grace Needed
The normal activity of a blacksmith is not just a hustle with brutality. The deed takes more than the act of pounding. Grit is needed to sustain hours of hammering away. One also needs to be graceful when working with a co-blacksmith on a blade as a lack of team work will result in a dull product.
|Buyers come from as far as the Visayas|
|Arriving in Cobo from Facade By Hotel Fina|
The Fear of Being Cut Off
According to Azucena, their raw materials come from different sources in Metro Manila and transported to Albay. Their buyers come from as far as the Visayas. With forges in the province not receiving as much support as other industries from the local government in terms of business loans, she fears of losing the business not because of the lack of demand but because of the waning generation of new blacksmiths.
There was a time when village teenagers as young as 15 years old would start training at the workshop. These days, the starting age is becoming older as more and more of the youth are venturing into Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) jobs which are more comfortable to perform in air conditioned workplaces. She thinks that the craft will soon go to machines and the unfortunate thing is that the community will no longer be a part of it.
Watch Cobo Blacksmiths At Work In Tabaco City:
Address: Brgy. Cobo, Tabaco City, Albay, Philippines