Author Topic: Pandayan Lost  (Read 4054 times)

Fred Natividad

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Pandayan Lost
« on: April 19, 2010, 09:50:18 AM »
Pandayan Lost

The story of Rodrigo Rovete, Pangasinan's panday (blacksmith, as in Panday Pira), originally from Pozzorubio, Pangasinan,  has been going around for sometime in the Internet. When I first came across his story I told many friends from Pozzorubio. Were they surprised! They have not heard of their celebrated panday townmate because they had been expatriates in Chicago for a long time. They were unaware the he exported knives and swords to the United States, that even Hollywood used his products in movies.

For one thing Rodrigo Rovete has moved to Nueva Ecija, his wife's home province. Also, the people I talked to apparently did not, at the time anyway, have Internet access. Some had new home computers but they bought them merely for show in their living rooms along with other affluent trappings - VCR's, oversized TV's, digital pianos... etc. They said they bought the home PC's for their children although the children were still too young then to tinker with the expensive toys.

Anyway, the story of Rovete brought back some nostalgia - an old man like me love to think of old times, especially in the home province when the ambiance was still bucolic, where the ubiquitous mode of transportation was not the tricycle but the regularly scheduled big red buses of Pantranco, the erstwhile premier bus company in Pangasinan, now defunct.

I remember a little village, where my mother was born, in a town next to my hometown. The people of this once sparsely populated neighborhood subsisted primarily on agriculture. But in between farming the other industry in the village was blacksmithing. Which is why the place was nicknamed "Pandayan," from the word "panday." In Pangasinan, "pandayan" means a place where blacksmiths work.

From the provincial highway of my mother’s hometown, near the poblacion (town proper), a dirt road branches into the hinterland to follow a river upstream towards the rice fields, into the coconut and mango trees. Clumps of bamboo huddled along the river banks. The road ends at the curving bank of the river. That road today has extended to the next town, my hometown, still following the contours of the river.

Many people in my mother’s old village are her relatives - second, third, fourth, ad infinitum distant cousins, uncles, aunts, granduncles, grandaunts... My mother used to take me there. Walking on the dirt road towards her ancestral neighborhood we met people and every third or fourth elder we met was a distant aunt, uncle, grandaunt, granduncle... By tradition I had to kiss their hand. They were so many I don't even remember their names and the hand kissing routine became my reluctant duty every time we came to visit Pandayan.

As we entered the then dirt road on foot (tricycles did not exist then) the distant cacophony of heavy sledge hammers pounding on red hot pieces of iron over anvils began to assail our eardrums. Pandays were at work fashioning knives of various kinds, shapes and sizes. The pounding noise of so many shops beside or under the houses grew more deafening as we neared the end of the road where we usually ended up at the home of a panday family, the closest among the huge number of relatives of my mother.

The childhood bamboo house where my mother was born has been long gone. But the lot where it once stood has been planted with coconut trees and two or three mango trees heavy with fruit every season. The small income from that property and from a tiny rice land is what kept her coming occasionally to Pandayan.

We would briefly stop at one house after another whenever someone was at the yard or at the panday shop. My mother would say “masantos ya agew” which literally translates to “blessed day” but actually meant to say “hello.” My duty was to kiss the hand of those she greeted who are distant relatives.

My last visit was about half a century ago. I came to Pandayan to notify our hundred plus relatives that my mother has passed away. Of course the elders, those still alive, did not recognize me immediately as the hand-kissing child of yesteryears. The latest generation did not know at all this gray haired relative who came from America.

But the big change in Pandayan, aside from the very obvious population explosion, was the missing neighborhood sounds of pandays at work. The new generation found other ways to make a living in big cities like Manila and foreign countries as OFW's (Overseas Filipino Workers). I found a distant Pandayan cousin in Canada who confessed that he was never able to learn the panday trade of his father.

Coconut and mango trees still filled backyard lots but the panday workshops are gone in Pandayan. I did not see any old anvil or a hand pumped blower that forced air into an open furnace where pieces of iron were heated red-hot to be pounded into gleaming knives including the familiar "barang," a long, heavy, all-purpose utility blade used to cut firewood or bamboo or to butcher animals for sale or for home consumption.

There were old stories that in some rare deadly cases in the past, feuding farmers used their barangs offensively against each other... Scary!

People are still relatively poor by OFW standards but many houses are no longer made of bamboo nor roofed with nipa palm leaves. TV’s and cell phones are no longer novel. The dirt road that my mother and I used to walk on has been paved with asphalt. The asphalt made the road a convenient playground over which polluting tricycles deftly avoid playing children who are three to four times more than our numbers when we were children.

 Pandayan, as I remember it, is lost.

Fred Natividad
Livonia, Michigan
© 2010