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The Blade that Took the Pride of Batangas



If you haven’t noticed a giant Balisong erected at the center area of Batangas, that’s because there is no any. But if there is a landmark worth erecting in Batangas province in northern Philippines, it would be the sculpture of the balisong. Also known as fan knife, for centuries, it has defined the unique art, craft, and culture of Batanguenos.

Diosdado Ona, owner of the Ona Blades store, sees a chance of reviving the dying industry. Yap, you heard it right folks, the balisong industry is now suffering from the dwindling supply of knife experts. The balisong capital of the Philippines is the Barangay Balisong in Taal Town.

According to Ona, "I think if the government would support the balisong industry, and promote it by putting up the fan knife landmarks in all the entrances to the province such as Laguna, Cavite, and Quezon, people will know and appreciate the industry".

A six-foot balisong, will be found in front of Ona's store along the highway of Barangay Balisong.
Ona exclaims that the fan knife industry is fast losing its experts as they are growing old. Their children who are supposed to inherit the art and craft of making the weapon, due to the technological advancement, would rather prefer the cellular phone.

"The balisong is our identity," Ona exclaims. "It defines us as Batanguenos. We can't just let the industry die because of politics and cell phones."

Constantly improving on the quality of the knife has become his passion. By producing collectors' type balisong, Ona is doing his best to help revive the industry. His business is known all over the world.
"Balisong is not only my passion, it is also a fascination," he claims. "In 1970, this fan knife saved my life from an attacker who retreated after he saw how fast I was with my balisong, and realized that his small weapon was no match for my bigger fan knife."

After his 19-year stint as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Saudi Arabia  and  Taiwan, Ona started his balisong business only in 1999. Through all those years, the passion for the blade never slipped his mind.
He explains: "In 1999, I wanted to continue the art, culture, and craft and business of balisong. It was a dying business then, (a) dying craft. When an expert balisong maker reaches the age of 50, his 20/20 vision is gone."

The perfect 20/20 vision of the expert balisong maker ensures that the holes and the pins that connects the housing and blades of the balisong would be balanced and perfectly aligned.

Making the fan knife is no easy task. It is harder than someone thinks. First, the liner or ‘magtatalag’ in Filipino makes the housing of the balisong from brass, aluminium, and stainless steel.  Its handles are made of horse bone, carabao horn, deer antler, hardwood such as narra and kamagong, and lately, some have experimented on plastics.

Usually comes from junk steel from the junkshops, the magbabalakbak then  makes and sharpens the blade. The junk steel are usually from the housing of bearings or leaf spring of vehicles, high grade metals that are forged in fire, continuously pounded, and shaped into the blade. Panday as we know it in Filipino.
To finish the product, the magbabasyada combines the housing and the blade.

A balisong maker gets 30% profit for every fan knife he makes. Sometimes, expert balisong makers can do all of those, from the lining to the completion of the knife.

Forty percent of Ona's clients are foreigners while the rest are local clients who collect or sell the balisong all over the country.

In 2007, about 50 members of the World of Martial Arts Federation went to Taal to buy Ona's famous balisong.  His balisongs, sold at P200 to P900 apiece, have reached all of Europe, United States, Australia, and Asia.

His balisong business also maintains regular clients in Manila and internet sales.  Regular clients from Hong Kong also bring in the big sales.

Ona employs four of the best balisong makers in Taal. For him, the secret to staying in the business is to continuously upgrade the quality of the balisong, and select the best balisong maker.

There are balisong art pieces in his store, including the100-year old balisong, which his grandfather used to own. Collectors always pick those with unique designs, the most popular of which is the Rambo-type blade used in Sylvester Stallone's hit movie series.

His miniature fan knives include the fancy key chain Kampilan used by the Philippine National Police Academy, and the sugar cane cutter called Pangtadtad.

Ona also has a sexy balisong called the Busisi, which is likened to a circumcised penis or "tuli" as locals say, where the tip of the blade juts out of its housing.

According to him: "I'm happy because through this business, I was able to know many famous people. Showbiz personalities, politicians, and businessmen are my friends now. My dream is to have a stock supply of balisong for the next 100 years, that is, if I win the lottery."

Balisong is a great way to conceal a knife. Though it’s easy as it seems, using it is somewhat tricky, you’ll end up hurting yourself if you don’t know how to use one.

Cheerio!

3 comments:

  1. HI, do you have the contact number and address of Mr. Ona? We'r having an educational tour this January. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Good day! There's no contact number posted as far as I'm concerned but you can reach Mr. Diosdado Ona thru his Facebook account https://www.facebook.com/people/Diosdado-Ona/100001201245794
    Hope you can reach him thru that. Million thanks ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kindly get in touch with him through 043-408-03-23 or 09273166946

    ReplyDelete