It was jealousy that made Cid Titus Cempron start his knife brand.
A philosophy professor at the University of Bohol, the 49-year-old got envious when he saw many of his friends driving four-wheelers, while he was stuck with a motorcycle. “That pushed me. May mga negosyo kasi sila, kahit maliit lang. They told me na mag-sideline ako,” he said.
Cempron told himself, “Basta makabili lang ako ng multicab, okay na sa akin.”
He started thinking of possible sources of extra income. For a time, he sold pillows. Eventually, he didn’t have to look far as the opportunity presented itself at an event. “Birthday ng mayor. Mapurol ’yung knife na panghiwa sa lechon. Sabi ko, ‘Mayor, may knife ako na para riyan.’” He brought out a bolo and easily hacked the hell out of the roasted pig.
That bolo had been customized for him by a third-generation blacksmith from Sikatuna, Bohol. The mayor was impressed. “Nakita niya how sharp it was so nagpagawa rin siya. It started that way.”
Working with ‘panday’
His set-up is pretty straightforward. Cempron coordinates with the client and provides the materials and design, while the blacksmith he partnered with makes the knives based on his specifications. He is the one who directly works with the panday because, based on experience, sometimes vital information gets lost in translation, especially when dealing with foreign customers. Plus, some blacksmiths are stuck in their old ways.
Cempron’s Bohol Blades, which he started and registered with the Department of Trade and Industry in 2018, is very adaptive, updated and collaborative. From an initial eight blades, his brand now has 27.
Cid did his homework and researched on the shape of his blades. He says that it is deeply rooted in local culture and lifestyle, the same way that the Ifugao and Panay have their own signature shapes based on their way of life.
Based on his analysis, he finds the design of Visayan blades to be very ergonomic. “We’re farmers, and the people who grew up in a rural setting know what an itak is. It fits the hand firmly.”
His recent works are more Japanese in design and for this, he studied the architecture and composition of their knives online.
With Facebook as his marketing tool, he got the attention of fellow knife lovers abroad and in 2019, started exporting, first to the United States, then to Germany, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Spain, Canada, Australia and Singapore. The demand surprised and overwhelmed him.
As of this writing, he has three months’ worth of commissioned work that still needs to be done.
Among his popular pieces are the Pinalingkod knife with a 10-inch carbon steel blade. It’s a utilitarian bolo but since it has a belly, he thought of shortening it to make it appropriate for practical kitchen use. The handle is made with rare albino carabao horn and the sheath is balayong hardwood. The ferrule is bronze and the pins are brass so they don’t rust easily.
There’s a slimmer version of it too, used for slaughtering pigs and carabaos.
One of his more recent works is the Japanese-inspired Bunka knife with an 8.5-inch blade made with the same handle and sheath as the Pinalingkod. It’s a general purpose kitchen knife, much like the common Santoku. The triangle-shaped tip is particularly useful when slicing fish or meat.
In 2019, Cid was finally able to buy a Hilux, which is a lot better than a multicab. He hopes for bigger things now that he has his Bohol Blades stable and running. “I want to set up a blacksmithing academy because it’s a dying art. It’s not even in the Tesda (Technical Education And Skills Development Authority) program. I want it to be certified because I don’t want this craft to die. It’s essential in farming.”
Tel. 0921-2326028, Bohol Blades on Facebook.
Follow the author at @fooddudeph on Instagram.