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Blacksmithing is one of the pastimes of the “Isnags”, an ethnolinguistic group from the province of Apayao, after tilling their farms or after harvest. The most popular product is the Aliwa, a native bolo of the Isnags that symbolize the life and death of Yapayao. It symbolizes life for it is used as a primary tool in farming. Its design is very appropriate in cutting trees and weeds during the preparation of their lands for planting. But the products also means death because during the early times, Isnags used it to defend their rights and in fighting their enemies. Its specialized design, showcasing an elongated handle and pointed tip, enables the user to deliver more power to its sharp blade in order to create a greater damage on its impact and its pointed tip can penetrate enemies’ shield. The production of an Aliwa was mostly intended for personal use only.

In 2013, the commercial production of Aliwa was started by Mr. Honorato Ulsa, a retired government employee who belongs to the Isnag group. He knows by heart the importance and value of Aliwa most especially to his fellow Isnags and also to the Yapayao’s as a whole. He eventually registered the Isagaddan Crafts and Souvenirs in 2014 to legalize the production of his metalwork products.

The processing center and showroom  for the Isagaddan products is located at Poblacion, Pudtol, Apayao. Mr. Ulsa uses scrap metals (car’s lift-spring, chainsaw guide bars, steel bars and used piles) as raw material for his products. He usually buys his supplies for the frames in Tuguegarao City. His venture helped in increasing job opportunities in the locality since he hires blacksmith from the different barangays of the municipality. Today he employs at least three permanent and three on-call workers.


The tradition of forging metal is not easy. It requires a lot of sweat, patience, and endurance. Metals are melted in a high temperature furnace. This allows the material to soften for the creation of various designs. It is then be withdrawn from fire using a metal tong and place in an anvil. They use the sledge/forging hammer to form the metal into desired design. When the form is achieved, they use a bench grinder to smoothen the rough faces made by hammer strikes. It shall be followed by the forging of the blades to ensure its sharpness and lastly is placing of wood handle.

The interest of Mr. Ulsa to achieve greater efficiency and productivity prompted him to seek assistances from the different government agencies for the acquisition of equipment, skills, and entrepreneurship to improve his smithery, and business management. Among others, he was able to avail financial and technical assistance for the acquisition of tools from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Shared Service Facility for Rattan Processing of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The production of framed Aliwa as a souvenir started in the hopes to provide tourists a product that represents the province’s blacksmith culture but safe for tourist usage.  In order to create such product, craftsman reduced the bolo size to create a miniature design and places it in a frame with an accent of Apayao loomwoven-cloth. This later became a very popular token for visitors of the Province.


The production of frames is mostly dependent on his suppliers in Tuguegarao City. Without the supply, his production decreases. Travelling expenses in the purchase of the frames also increases the prices of the finished products. With this, he wanted to source local supplies of frames to lower the production cost. and produce more framed Aliwas in a day.

In order to address this situation, he took part in DTI’s OTOP Next Generation Product Clinic. Mr. Ulsa underwent assessment and one-on-one consultation with Mr. Rommel Lugada, a designer and consultant for the program. After the process, they came-up with a more cost-efficient and presentable frame design.

Indeed, with the proper training and assistance, there is no dull future for the metalworks industry for Apayao.





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