A few months ago, I found the first balisong at the top for sale in the US. The seller didn’t know what it was, and honestly, I didn’t either. It had an extensive layer of rust on it and it looked pretty rough. I decided to take it off the seller’s hands. After looking at the picture of it some more, I realized there was a good chance it was an early FHM (Filipino hand-made) balisong.
Then I chanced upon the second and third balisongs. They were definitely FHMs, and I jumped at the chance to get older Batanguenyo balisongs as they are increasingly difficult to come across.
While they were on their way here from the US, I was in Batangas picking up the custom knives you’ve seen for sale over the last week. I got into a discussion with someone who’s been in the business for over thirty years. I asked him if he had any old—really old—balisongs, and he laughed, and said he didn’t have his lolo’s (grandfather’s) balisong, but he started looking for a pen. Being the EDC nut I’ve become, I whipped my Fisher Space Pen out of my Maxpedition M2 waistpack and he sketched out what his grandfather’s balisong looked like. Exactly like the balisong at the top.
The guy I was talking to was in his late 50s—his grandfather would have had his first balisong in his 20s, so his balisong would have been 80 years old at the very least. When I bought the balisong at the top, I had no idea I had chanced upon an antique Batangas balisong, but that’s exactly what I now have on my coffee table.
The second balisong has much thicker, all brass handles and a thick latch—it is from the 60s or 70s, I believe, and in outstanding condition. The horse bone has turned green with age, perhaps due to discoloration from the oxides in the brass.
The long 31 cm balisong under it is even older. It has flat bolsters (like the turn of the 20th century one at the top) and karabaw inserts with brass overlay, and an eagle tang. I had no idea that eagle tangs had been around that long. While the balisong is loose and there are cracks and pieces of the karabaw inserts are missing, it is still flippable, locks up tight and has no chips in the edge. It’s amazing how durable Filipino balisongs are, and these balisongs are a testament to their longevity!
The second last balisong is a recent custom I had made for myself. It has a bayonet blade and a pocket clip, and the inserts are smooth black karabaw horn.
The one on the bottom somewhat resembles the old 31 cm above it, although the overlay has changed and karabaw is far less common as a full-length insert than it once was. Also, the rambo blade is a relatively recent adaptation, as is the bottle opener on the tang.
I’ve been really lucky in terms of sourcing antique Pinoy blades recently. Before anyone asks: no, they’re not for sale. :)