Monday, May 21, 2012

The slow decline of the balisong industry

An excellent short clip on the current state of the balisong making industry in Batangas. Almost every PTK visitor (and FMA practitioner in general) who has been to the country has been to Bario Balisong and the huge number and variety of blades being sold apparently does not reflect the true condition of this knife making tradition.

The problem also lies with the image of the knife. The knife really has a fearsome reputation, one that is tied to criminals and violence. There is no escaping that image. If I got caught with a balisong on me in Manila, I stand a far greater chance of being dragged to the nearest police precinct and treated like a wanted murderer than if i carried an imported folder. The balisong is still being used by muggers here and the police do have a reason to suspect anyone carrying this knife.

But the balisong is also a part of Filipino culture, a knife that was used by Batangas men to defend themselves and their loved one. Duels were fought with them, and I'm sure not a few families have stories to tell of how their kin have used them to settle matters of honor.

For the balisong to survive, it has to fight to distance itself from the criminals that use them and have made the knife infamous. The industry needs to upgrade and make better products, using better blade steels. Non-government entities can help create apprenticeship programs to teach the balisong making skills to a new generation.

It will be a sad day for Filipino martial culture when one of the best knife designs in the world dies out in the country of its creation simply because criminals sullied its reputation and the average Filipino could not care less.

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