Taal, Batangas: Historical Data Part III - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Taal, Batangas: Historical Data Part III - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Taal, Batangas: Historical Data Part III

Historical Data graphic
Historical data from the National Library of the Philippines.



[p. 13]


Balisong is a barrio just less than a kilometer from the town of Taal. This place is noted for knives known everywhere as “balisong.”

The very first industry of the males in this place was bolo making. They made artistic bolos with beautiful handles and shaped blades that commanded [a] large demand. These bolos were even exhibited in the Manila carnivals and the makers were awarded diplomas.

Later on, the bolo industry was replaced by the making of knives. The making of knives originated incidentally. A man by the name Perfecto de Leon happened to buy a big case made of bronze. He could not utilize this bronze in making bolos, so he thought of other means to make use of it. Fortunately, he happened to think of making a knife. After several trials, he was able to finish one which was crude at first as compared with present knives. When others sought the finished product, they bought a piece of metal and tried to make their own. From that time, the bolo industry was replaced by the knife industry for almost a quarter of [a] century now.

Many males got interested. At first, only the old people could make the knives, but now, even boys of school age can make them. At present, around twenty-five houses are engaged in this industry with an output of around sixty-five knives daily with an income of almost ₱425.00. This amount is only ⅒ of their income during and a year after liberation. Even before the war, the people of Balisong had this industry as their occupation. The knives where sold by the Manila Trading and its branches in the different provinces of the archipelago and under the Bureau of Commerce.

When the war broke out, the industry is ceased because of [a] lack of materials and, at the same time, it was prohibited by the Japanese.

When the Americans came during liberation, the natives tried to sell their old knives. The Americans were so interested that they offered very high prices. The people became enthusiastic and the industry flourished once more. But because of [a] lack of materials, if you were able to make. As time went on, the natives bartered their knives with different materials and tools that they could use in making the knives for the Americans. Because of the great demand, the prices soared higher and higher that an ordinary maker could earn from ₱20.00 to ₱30.00 a day. Had this situation lasted longer, Balisong may be one if not the most progressive places in Taal. But anyhow, there are some until now who are financially better off because of this industry. Some were able to buy tracts of land. For the present, the industry is a great help to the community many students are able to continue their studies by making knives, earning money to pay their fees and expenses in high school. Without this industry, there will be many students who will not be able to continue their studies.

[p. 14]

In general, the male population in Balisong has no labor problem. Some neighboring barrios are benefited, because they also learned the industry.

Materials used in making the knives:

1. Bronze for the framework.
2. Steel or bearing for the blade.
3. For decoration of the handle:
a. Deer horn.
b. Carabao horn.
c. Cow bone.
d. Aluminum.
e. Pearl shell.
f. Handle of the toothbrush.
g. Ivory, etc.

How the knives are made:

The bronze is divided into pieces according to sizes the maker likes to me.

It will be softened by putting it into the fire until it is as red as live charcoal. Next, it will be “lalad” to form the handle. It will then be smoothed with [the] use of different sizes of files. [The] Preparation for the decoration and nailing it to the handle comes next the blade is prepared by the blacksmith with the required shape and size. It may be either double blade, single blade or criz. The blade has to be softened first before they could be filled to have a better shape and to make it thinner. When the blade is ready, it will be pinned to the handle with the aid of the hand-dried temporarily at first, just to find out if it will fit exactly. Then the “trunks” will be attached at the end of the handle. The blade will be again taken off to be hardened in the process of tempering. After this, the handle and the blade will be teamed together with the use of [a] hard wire. Then, the night will be taken to the one engaged in the blade grinder to make them sharp and shiny. They used to pay from ₱25 up according to sizes. Then, this knife is ready for [the] market.

On Saturdays, the makers take them to the market. But oftentimes, merchants come to the barrio to buy knives to be taken to Manila, and the provinces, especially where navy men are coming. At present, the prices have gone very low that most of the people find other jobs which are more profitable.

[p. 15]


To trace the origin of sawali weaving in Mahabang Lodlod, Taal, Batangas, there is use [in] looking back across the years in order to see the light of an unwritten history [on] how the industry had its beginning.

A hundred fifty years ago, the so-called sawali was unknown in the islands, and Mahabang Lodlod was still nameless and uninhabited. One day in March 1848, there were two lovers who alone and selected Mahabang Lodlod as their temporary residence. This place is about three kilometers away from the poblacion of Taal overlooking the big San Martin Church, the whole town, and Balayan Bay. The two lovers, Guillermo and Anita, had lived in the place for only a few days and yet they were content and happy. They spent many days and nights under the trees.

The cold December king and the beast of the easterly wind, “amihan,” carried with it the cool breeze from southeastern Asia. They then felt the need for a house. Guillermo began to cut bamboos which were plentiful in the locality and a few weeks after, Anita found out that the only part missing were the walls. For these, Guillermo gathered palm leaves which were common in those days.

The people from the adjacent places came to Guillermo’s place until it was recognized as a barrio recorded in the history of Taal. Because of the topography of the place, it was named Mahabang Lodlod.

The hut of Guillermo and Anita, the first dwelling in Mahabang Lodlod, after many years, protruded to one of its sides. The palm leaf walls where the first to fall to the ground. Guillermo had a strong desire to replace the fallen walls with some durable materials. He was thinking day and night of what to use which would not only be durable but also more beautiful than palm leaves.

One day, Guillermo caught sight of a mat in a corner of the hut. He thought he could make something like it out of bamboo splits. He began to split a bamboo two meters long and begin to weave using the mat as a model and guide. It was quite difficult to weave for the splits were thicker than palm leaves. Anita, who was watching him as he worked, upon seeing the finished product, realized that it could be used as their wall. After weaving several pieces, the lovers put the woven bamboo splits in place. They found it comfortable and more attractive than the palm leaves. They agreed to call their wall “sawali” and as to what they meant by calling it so, no record show, although some believe it might have been derived from the word “sawali.”

People of the neighborhood, upon seeing the walls of the lovers, began to ask as to how he made them and soon the walls of the houses in that barrio were all of sawali. As years past, there was

[p. 16]

a demand for sawali from the neighboring barrios and even those TaaleƱos who migrated to neighboring towns used it for the walls which forced the people of Mahabang Lodlod to take sawali-weaving as their chief undustry.


One hundred ten houses and almost three hundred fifty persons are wholly dependent on the industry for their livelihood. They begin their work early in the morning using kerosene lamps when it is still dark until late in the evening. The weaving is mostly done during the nights.

A fast worker can make four or five pieces of sawali two by two meters in a day. Each piece, which contains four square meters, costs two pesos. A fast worker, after deducting the cost of the material, earns at least five pesos a day.


A large part of the fish eaten in Taal, Batangas is supplied by the industrious fishermen of Butong. These fishermen are not largely dependent on [the] fishing industry; they divide their time between the farm and the sea. Much salt-sea fishing is done during the dry season or when they are not engaged in planting rice.

Commercially speaking, basing, a new method of fishing introduced in Butong, is the most profitable of all the methods employed. This fishing method was derived from the Visayan method of fishing. This method of fishing has a total worth of ₱4,400. By employing basing, the average worth of catch is ₱3000.00 per annum.

Let us have a clear picture of this method of fishing. Basnig are [of] two kinds. One kind is made of net which is used for catching large fishes and the other one is made of sinamay which is used for catching small kinds of fish. The lights seen at night along the coast are indicative of the equipment needed in the operation. Aside from the lights which are usually two is a big boat operated by at least fourteen men or more, a small patrol boat, and another boat manned by at least four men to carry the catch. Cars, paddles, anchor, and ropes are also needed.

There are two kinds of fish caught. Small fish attracted by the light are fishes which are locally called dulong, dilis, hiwas, galonggong, sapsap, muralla, etc.

Basnig is the most efficient and the most popular in the locality of Butong on account of its advantages over other methods of fishing. Basnig is operated at night. It is very handy and re-

[p. 17]

quires less time in the operation. The length of time by which a sinamay basing may continuously be employed by its owner depends on the care given to it. It may last for a year. The other kind of basing, which is made of net, lasts longer – 5 years or more depending on the care.

Other methods of fishing are dragnets, cost [cast?] net, clip net, fish trap, deep sea net, bigwas, fish corral, and hook and lines. The boats ordinarily used for dragnets are fairly large, carrying from 30 to 40 men. Like basnig, work is usually done at night, when lights can be used to attract fish. For catching small fishes along the beach and in shallow waters, the cost [cast?] net, clip net and hook and lines are used. Fish corral is made of bamboo and has been employed here from historic times. Another method of fishing which yields a good catch is the deep sea net.

[p. 18]


Pulo, being an island, is surrounded by a vast space of freshwater known as Taal Lake. Taal Lake is known for palatable fishes, one of which is tawilis, unlike other fishes in the lake, is caught by nets called pukot. There are more than twenty fishing nets in the whole island. Sometimes, fishing nets are owned by one person or by corporations. Fishing nets, including boats, lights and bancas cost thousands of pesos, so it needs capital to own one.

The quality of fish caught sometimes may not be measured in terms of hundreds and thousands. They are measured in terms of big baskets, which vary in size. A basket of fish may cost twenty pesos or more depending upon the amount caught that night. There are conditions for favorable fishing. One is the stillness of the lake, the other is the absence of moombeans [moon beams?] and the absence of [a] swift current. A fish net owner may have thousands of pesos in one season depending upon the amount caught. One half of the money goes to the owner of the fishing nets and one half is divided among the persons employed by the capitalist.

The fishes caught are sold in nearly all markets of neighboring towns and provinces, even as far as Manila. In these markets, they are sold by retailers in terms of hundreds depending upon competition. When more fish are caught, prices are low or vice-versa, as a general rule in Economics.

During rainy season, drying fish remains a stagnant business, for some reasons. First, it does not find a good market. Second, it is very difficult to dry them due to the frequent rains and absence of sunshine. Methods of drying are easy. The fish are soaked in containers with considerable salt to make it salty. After twelve hours, they are exposed to the sunshine with the help of pointed sticks known as tindagan. The exposure does not get too long to make it very hard. Then, they are piled under the shades of houses especially built for the purpose. Then, they are piled in big baskets and are ready for sale in the Manila markets. A pointed stick may contain at least five fish depending upon the size of the tawilis.


Notes and references:
Transcribed from “History and Cultural Life of the Municipality of Taal,” 1953, online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
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