Art and Culture · Batangas

Balisong Art by Master Ona

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.

6-feet balisong
The 6-feet balisong in front of Ona’s Batangas Blades Store

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.

Carabao Horn
Kris blade (crooked) and bowie blade with handles made of fine and wrinkled carabao horn
Antlers Horn
Bowie blade with handles made of antler’s horn
Kamagong
Multi-face blade with handles made of kamagong wood
Square Bar
Bowie blade with handles made of stainless square bar
Brass Bar
Bowie blade with eagle’s wings design and handles made of brass square bar
Brass Bar2
A folded eagle-designed balisong
Horse Bone
Trainer blade (dull blade with holes), rambo blade, double blade and bowie blade with handles made of horse leg bone. The sculpted handle serves an anti-slip function.
kakawate
29-centimeter bayonete, tari blade and stainless fork with handles made of madre de cacao (kakawate) wood
House of Bearing
Bowie blade made from the housing of bearing of a vehicle

Junk steel such as housing of bearings, coil springs and other metals may be brought to his shop to be recycled into blades.

Slasher
This karambit (or slasher blade) evolved from the coil spring of a car/truck.
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.

Giant Balisong

For inquiries, interested parties may contact Mr. Diosdado Ona at 0927-316-6946 or like his page on Facebook. 🙂

References:

¹ http://www.taal.ph

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.

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3 thoughts on “Balisong Art by Master Ona

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