I have always been fascinated by traditional Filipino blades. In the 80’s I would even bring knives to school to brag with my classmates and friends. Though it was not allowed, I will still bring some. I don’t bring it with the intent of hurting someone. I just like it, because it is the only knife that you could play around with many tricks. In the Filipino martial arts, it is the preferred weapon of choice for an edc blade. It can be concealed and at a flick of a second, it can be opened and ready for use.
The history of Balisong in the Philippines is very confusing. There are so many versions of those stories that have came out over the years. In reality many of these stories cannot be backed up with any substantial evidence. One of the most common used version is that balisong is a word derived from the word “Bali” which means broken in two and ” Song or Sung ” which means an animal horn. I first heard of this story from Master Dan Inosanto . It was an old video from the mid 80’s. In the video, he said that a Filipino warrior in ancient time was able to kill 29 of his opponents. In the Filipino Tagalog language, number 29 means Veintinueve.
Another version is the one by Perfecto de Leon, it was claimed that he was the first knifemaker in the barrio who made the balisong or butterfly knife, but even that story does not hold. At Taal Batangas if you will ask the elderly. Many had never heard of him. It is very unusual for somebody who is the founder / inventor of such a very famous knife not to be known in the barrio itself. I believe that version is claimed in the book by Edgar G. Sulite. A Filipino martial arts practitioner. Sometimes these Filipino martial artist are so missed informed or are using dodgy stories to market their business. Over the years, there is one particular story which I feel which is more believable.
Several years back, most elderly at Barrio Balisong calls those knives as Lancenta. A Filipino Spanish word for dagger or knife. If you have a Lanceta, and you bring it with you to another town or city like Manila. People will ask, were did you get that lanceta? Then the will reply will always” Balisong “. A small barrio located in the municipal town of Taal Batangas. Because, of the repetitive question and answer. People got used to of calling it ” Balisong “.
When the time the Americans still have the U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay and the Clark Air Base . American soldiers would often come to Batangas and buy cheap tourist balisong knives as souvenirs or ask have a custom built balisongs which is more refined, but would cost a lot more than the average FHM balisong. Usually, this have exotic inserts of the visayan deer stag with thicker blades and handle liners. So, many of those vintage Filipino Batangas balisongs in the US now were actually brought in by American soldiers that were assigned in the Philippines .
In the US, modern balisongs started to flourish in the 80’s and one of the pioneer is Les De Asis of Benchmade. Those balisong knives were made with machined stainless handles and special steel blades. Unlike the traditional Filipino Balisongs that are handmade using scrap metals and brass.