I’ve seen too many gongs (and tried to play it a few times) that I take it as something “ordinary” for Mindanaon traveler like me. It never occurred to me though how such beautifully crafted brassware was created.
I bet most of you didn’t bothered to ask, if ever you saw one. Have you seen a gong being crafted? Yes, maybe. But have you seen a muslim artisan manually crafting a gong?A brassware? If not, you better see one in Cotabato city before such artistic and astute craftsmanship will forever be lost to curiosity.
Cotabato City is known for its Muslim culture and tradition. The oldest city in the south is home to numerous cultural gems. More than that, Cotabato City holds a few muslim craftsman and artists whose skills are deeply intertwined with culture and tradition and has been handed down through generations. One of these artistic gems is the brassware making community which produces gongs and metal crafts using the manual or traditional method of molding metal. All from designs and imprints handed down by their forefathers.
The process starts with the metalware design carved in a wax from the artist design concept. These wax designs are negative imprints of the craft that are molded over with clay. When I asked one artists who designs or who came up with the “blueprints”, he answered it was all handed down to them verbally and is stored in the brains of their “designers”. No written record whatsoever. Anyhow, the clay mold with the wax imprints is left to harden. Once the clay mold-imprint is hard already, the negative wax imprint is removed by heating and melting the wax. Then the clay mold is furthered refined and the “imperfections’ removed using the traditional sanding technique. The clay mold will then serve as the base mold for the brassware. With proper heating techniques and repeated manual sanding technique, the metalwares with decorative drawings are produced.
Personally I was amazed at how such gem has been artistically created, from design to finished product. Although somewhat rudimentary to many, this manual brassware making technique a class artistry of its own, given the skills and imaginative depth of the artisan behind any of this brass wares.
It is sad though that this community of artisans and craftsman is the only remaining manual brassware makers in Cotabato City.
So if you ever go to Cotabato City and is perhaps interested in this artists and their craft, go a take a visit at their place. See them in action and get awed by the artistry thats has been handed down for generations, orally. Contact Cotabato City’s local tourism office for inquiries on how to go to this place.