Leonardo Da Vinci, Juan Luna, and Michelangelo are artists. And surely no one will question this!There’s no need to explain! But how does a person acquire the title “artist”? Is it by making great artworks that become very famous? If this is the criterion, then, I think we will neglect to give tribute to people who are qualified to be called artists. Take for instance the casket makers. Yes! You read it right! The casket makers. Sounds gothic? Not really. While Effegy and I were looking around the city, we got to meet two exceptional individuals: Elpidio Bernardo, 39, and Richard Ludas, 31, the casket makers of Porras Funeral Homes. Mister Elpidio is a native of Antique, Cabugao Sur, Sta. Barbara while Mister Richard is from Malusgod, Pototan, Iloilo. Co-workers and friends call them Panoy and Chard, respectively. Nong Panoy specializes in the carpentry whereas Nong Chard concentrates on the designing. They used to be servant boys in this funeral home when they were teenagers about 15 years ago. What year was that? Well, during their free time, they would observe the then casket makers in making and designing caskets.
For one year, Nong Panoy and Nong Chard practiced how to construct and design one. What a long year for an impatient trainee but a short year for a serious beginner! They often helped each other to improve their skills, constantly trying on planks of wood and assisting in painting caskets. The former casket makers would give advices to them for support and enhancement of potentials. Due to their efforts, amazingly, they mastered the art. Today, Nong Panoy can build at least 20 caskets a week while Nong Chard can design 15. In just a week, their tandem can produce at least 15 finished caskets.
Now, visualize many, many caskets in front of you. These caskets exhibit a metallic finish. The exteriors are adorned by relief sculptures and interiors are well designed using henna cloth or silk cloth and laces, skirted with elegance and style. Constructing a casket is not an easy thing to do. Skills are important in this art form. Nong Panoy, for instance, specializes in the carpentry. Effegy asked him several questions about what’s and why’s and he answered her while hammering planks of wood. Imagine she hesitated for a bit if she should continue asking questions. She was afraid Nong Panoy might hammer his finger! Well, Nong Panoy is an expert and an artist so he won’t be distracted by her. In addition to that, he works very fast. Not just fast but he also completed his task with quality. Few minutes earlier, about 15 minutes, we just saw ready to be assembled pieces of wood and plywood being hammered to stick together. But now what we have in our front was an undoubtedly a casket. Still there’s something missing – the design.
When we compared the one recently made by Nong Panoy and the casket ready to be sold, we said, “Is that the outcome?.” A mere wooden box looks so metallic now. Well, that’s the work of Nong Chard. So we jump to our next friend. Our first words to him were, “Wow!” So shocked we were that we touched the casket for we were afraid our eyes were deceiving us. We thought it was made of metal. Definitely it was made of wood. It didn’t feel wood either. And the secret of this was the process and of course, the techniques of Nong Chard, said he. The casket underwent many layering of calcimine paint primer, five times to be precise, to make it become shiny. Between those layering intervals the sandpaper was rubbed against the casket so that the latter will acquire a smooth texture. The casket should be dried and then continue layering then dried to achieve the effect.
Then using a spray gun, Nong Chard will paint the casket with automotive paint. Decorations were then added. Some of them are handles and figurines. Laces, henna cloth and silk cloth are attached for adornment purposes using tacks and small nails in the internal. What we saw was a casket ready for sale. When we examined the previous product and new one, we were really stunned because the casket looks very elegant and exhibit a metallic finish, even though we were there the making process, But then, it was what made it great. And what’s nice about Nong Panoy and Chard is that they don’t consider themselves artists. At the very beginning when we asked them for this interview, they were asking why we chose them. And Effegy answered that it was because their work is a unique profession. Their artwork is part of our artistic culture but not yet fully recognized. The title artist is not limited alone to those whose works are popular but also to those people who makes art! A Casket is an artwork. So, why don’t we call the casket makers artists? We believe they deserved the title! (^_^)Authors: Effegy R. Dusaran and Carolyn C. Jaugan Humanities 1-Alcuaz