The balisong, or “butterfly knife” or “fan knife,” takes on unique designs in Taal, Batangas, the Balisong Capital of the Philippines.
The balisong industry in the Philippines began in 1905. The products are crafted in a barangay in Batangas that bears its name. Bali means “to break” and sung means “horn,” in other words, balisong means “broken horn.” The balisong was created to be a deadly weapon. Then and now, the handles of the knives are made of animal horns. Later on, the makers also utilized wood, metals and plastics for the handles.1 Today, the balisong makers in Taal produce collector’s type balisong which tourists and visitors may purchase as their memento of this town.
After a historical visit to the Heritage Town of Taal, I went to Barangay Balisong and came across this 6-feet balisong in front of a shop and an array of fan knives displayed in the glass cabinet. Taking home a keychain with a miniature balisong will complete the trip in Taal, I thought. So I began asking for prices. The man, who was busy working at the shop, stopped at that moment to entertain my curiosity. Luckily, I was talking to Mr. Diosdado Ona, owner of the Ona’s Batangas Blades Store, which offers a collection of designs of the finest balisong in town.
Mr. Ona’s passion in promoting the balisong industry, a heritage of the Batangueño culture, remained alive in him for more than two decades. In fact, he kept his grandfather’s over 100-year-old balisong in his store as remembrance of the flourishing industry of the past.
He started his business in 1999 after working in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. In 2007, 50 members of the World Martial Arts Federation visited him to buy his fan knives. His products already reached clients from Europe, US, Australia and Asia. The popularity of his business paved way for him to meet TV personalities, businessmen, politicians and other famous people.
Mr. Ona said that the balisong industry is slowly diminishing because the knife experts are growing old and their children lack the interest of continuing the craft. One way that this industry would endure is to improve the quality of the balisong sold to clients, which he (as the designer) and his balisong makers practice up to now.
In his store are his designs of various balisong, which he gladly discussed with me in detail.
Junk steel such as housing of bearings, coil springs and other metals may be brought to his shop to be recycled into blades.
I may not be a balisong collector, but I learned to appreciate the balisong-making craft in Taal. I learned it upon witnessing Mr. Ona’s passion and dedication in reviving (or preserving) this cultural heritage through his business. Kudos Sir!
Beside his humble abode is a giant replica of balisong (4.77 meters long) where picture-taking would serve as another great souvenir for your visit in Taal town.
For inquiries, interested parties may contact Mr. Diosdado Ona at 0927-316-6946 or like his page on Facebook. 🙂
Enjoy a historical tour in the Heritage Town of Taal. Check out my itinerary here.
Looking for a place to stay overnight in the heritage town? You may chek in at Tampuhan Cafe. Find out more about it here.