The Festival of the Pacific Arts in Guam sparked a renewed interest among the youth on ancient customs and ways of Pacific Islanders: blacksmithing and traditional navigation and master blacksmith Francisco Cruz Lizama wants to capitalize on that.
Lizama, who was on Saipan last week visiting several schools, said he’s glad that a number of young people expressed interest in learning about blacksmithing. “This is what our ancestors have been doing and I’m glad that it is peaking again.”
“It is good for the youth to take interest. Like in Guam, before there were no traditional seafarers or navigators, now there’s already an association and they are also building canoes. I make tools for them, tools that they use to build canoes,” said Lizama.
He added that he is the only remaining master blacksmith in the Marianas—Guam and the CNMI. “Before, a long time ago, there were also two blacksmiths here on Saipan but they’re gone. There’s nobody left here to continue it.”
And that’s one of the reasons why he came to Saipan, to see if there are some who would be interested to learn the trade. “That’s why I devoted my time coming over here, to see if somebody would also take an interest. I’m very glad and more than willing to teach them.”
“The interest is there but one must also love the art. If kids here wanted to learn, I’m more than willing to teach. In the olden times, this is how we make a living. The blacksmiths make the tools and we buy it,” said Lizama, who’s been a blacksmith for 27 years.
Lizama added that he has already taught 17 people, three of which are female and one only 14 years old. He only wanted one thing to the person who wanted to become one of his students one must really be interested and serious to learn the art.
“I’m a very serious person. I take teaching passionately. If you miss a few sessions, then you’re gone. I can’t waste my time on you since I want to put an effort in teaching those who wanted to learn,” said the 74-year-old Lizama, who trained under master blacksmith Tun Jack Lujan.
But he needs to schedule his lessons since he could only teach a certain number of people. “It’s a bit dangerous because I need to keep an eye on what you’re doing. One slip or one mistake, especially if a piece of hot metal flies, and it can burn through your skin. I emphasize safety.”
Lizama answered a number of questions from students when he visited Kagman High School last week.
The Northern Marianas Humanities Council, with the help of the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council headed by Antonia Tudela, made possible Lizama’s visit to Saipan. Alice Igitol is the SNIMC vice chair with Lareina Camacho as secretary.