Boboy and Danao’s thunder things
Tue, April 24, 2007 6:17 am
By Karlon N. Rama
LAST week’s piece on the nineteen-eleven earned an email from Mr. Ramon “Boboy” Durano IV (boboy_rd @yahoo.com), former city administrator, vice mayor and councilor of Danao City. I emailed him back and asked about the treasure trove of firearms and firearm-history that he calls his hometown. His reply deserves to see print.
“Based on my little research, the gun industry in Danao started around 1905-1906 and one of the most popular gun maker at that time was a certain Mario Durano. I don’t know how he is related to us.
“I have a piece that was supposedly made by him in 1912. It is a revolver chambered for cal. 32, made out of bronze and patterned after the revolvers used either by the Spaniards or the early batch of American soldiers sent out to fight Aguinaldo. Gun making was then considered as a backyard industry, of course, and outlawed by the government.
“When World War II came, the Danao gunsmiths went underground, joined the guerrilla movement or were inducted into the USAFFE under the command of Gen. Douglas McArthur.
“Their task was to re-chamber the Japanese Arisaka rifles to fit the US cal.30 round or kept the original Japanese rifle in good serviceable shape for the use of our forces.
“After the war, there was a lull because of the proliferation of US surplus goods, among them firearms.
“The industry went on, still underground. Until the ’60s, somebody coined the word ‘paltik’ to the guns. The brand made it popular and, being synonymous to Danao, people now began to realize that there was something, a special skill, that is embedded in the Danao gunsmiths.
“Aside from being cheap, it was a ‘throw-away-after-use’ item, primitive in looks but reliable and easy to obtain. They even made “ball pen” guns, chambered for cal.22 LR (Long Rifle).
“Thus came the era of the Danao-made revolvers, with chambering set either for the twenty-two and the twenty-two magnum, cal. 32 and cal. 38.
“The semi-automatic pistol version was still either on the drawing board or in the testing stage and this took a long time for them to perfect.”
He traced the industry to one Mario Durano who taught the skill to family and friends and who, in turn, taught it to others.
Skilled Danao gunsmiths, he said, played a pivotal role in the guerrilla movement during the Japanese occupation of Cebu in World War II. And, after the war, gunsmithing became a good way for people to augment their income. He continues:
“When martial law was declared in 1972, every gunsmith went into hiding. They buried all their tools, products, and other illegal items for fear of being arrested.
“They re-surfaced in 1973 and were manufacturing handcuffs and thumbcuffs instead for law enforcement people and interested civilians. These were not illegal and it restored part of their lost income.
“They took can openers and refashioned them as keys for the cuffs.
“In the end, they still went back to gun making because the demand for their products continued. People were looking for it to protect their homes and families.
“They began making revolvers for more powerful calibers including the .357 Magnum and ammunition designed for the M16 (5.56mm) and the M1 Garand (cal. 30-06) rifles.
“I saw them test fire the revolver chambered for the Garand ammo, and it was great. I stood 20 yards away, afraid that it might blow, up but it never did. They fired five rounds in succession without any hitch.
“I remembered in the late ’80s when the Cebu Pistol and Rifle Association invited Smith and Wesson to come to the range and display/test fire their new products for the police, they sent no other than IPSC shooter Tom Campbell to do the demo.
“After the fireworks, we showed him a Danao-made revolver chambered for the M16 ammo. The gun even had the S&W logo engraved on the frame.
“He shook his head and said that this ammo is not made for a revolver, but he took a lot of pictures of the gun from all angles. He tried the action but did not attempt to fire the gun, I am sure he was scared. Then in the ’90s, they started tinkering with the semi auto, the 1911A1 in particular. It was followed by the 9mm, .380 and the cal.40 S&W. they all proved successful.
“Presently, the industry is still growing, a skill that is not found in other provinces. It is a skill that was passed on from generation to generation and supported the livelihood of thousands of families for over a century.”
As a postscript, the mid-90s saw major efforts being thrown at organizing the gunsmiths of Danao to make their operation legal. The moves found a sympathetic ear in then Recom 7 chief Jose Andaya, who recognized that the only way to beat the proliferation of unlicensed gun is to license the makers and regulate their trade.
These efforts paved the way for the creation of the Danao Arms Manufacturing Corp., a private firm set up by Byron Garcia, and the workers league of Danao, a multi-purpose cooperative.
But the lack of government support in research and development as well as almost non-existent access to quality materials and metallurgy doomed the two ventures and forced the gunsmiths to go back in the black once again.
I strongly believe that these talented smiths will resurface once they see the government being earnestly serious in legalizing their operation by helping provide an environment that can sustain their trade.
Until then, these smiths will continue to make Danao’s thunder things in the shadows