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Arts and Crafts in Taal
Posted: 11:43 PM (Manila Time) | May 20, 2003
By Maui V. Reyes
Inquirer News Service

A VISIT to a panutsa factory was one of the delightful stops in our Taal tour. Even though I'm not a big fan of peanuts, I'm not one to turn down the sugar-coated Taal delicacy. I was excited to see how it was made.

I had expected to see a small factory with workers, but what I saw was something different. There were about 10 people in a makeshift garage, five women sitting on low wooden chairs, beating newly made panutsa on a low, long wooden table. A man stood by a corner, stirring melted sugar and peanuts in a "tulyasi" (a small vat), which was heated by a dome-type stone stove fueled by coconut husks.

Dindo, our tour guide, told us the history of the panutsa. Originally called "panucha," it used to consist of only raw sugar. Although peanuts were later added to the basic ingredients -- which are sugar, water, and citric acid as a preservative -- the process of cooking it is basically still the same. All you need are coconut husks (since firewood is too expensive), a stone stove, a tulyasi and a long bamboo for stirring.

After stirring in the peanuts, the mixture is tested if it's ready to be molded. Jason gamely tried it out, but his effort only seemed to slow the work down (you need to work very fast, since the mixture tends to harden quick).

The mixture is then poured into bamboo rings, so it hardens into perfect circles. The circles are beaten by bamboo sticks to Taal delicacies even them out.

I tried making a circle with a medium bamboo circle. I was not that bad, although the beating was quite tricky because the mixture would harden so fast that it started to stick to the bamboo sticks.

Pam dared me to make a 2bU! logo out of the mixture since I always seemed to do that whenever we went out on trips. I began to think the lady next to me was irritated-I was using up so much panutsa mixture and I couldn't work fast enough to smoothen out the letters.

Dindo stressed that panutsa workers earn less than minimum wage, but don't complain much about it. "As long as they get enough to get by in life, they're fine with it," he explained. "As they say here, kahit pang-kape lang."

Our next stop was a balisong factory. I'm not a big fan of weapons, and Dindo told me that Taal is trying to erase the balisong's image as a deadly weapon. In fact, he said, the knives are being used in the locals' everyday lives, such as circumcision. "You're a chicken if you don't go through that ritual with the balisong," Dindo laughed.

We approached the shed were men were pounding on steel and sharpening tools. I learned that a certain Perfecto de Leon came up with the balisong, which literally means "broken (from bali) manner of packing (song)," in 1905.

It was patterned after the Chinese folding fan, with the knife hidden in between the handles. Others call it the "butterfly knife. "The blade of the balisong, which comes in different shapes and sizes, are usually taken from old steel, since it is proven to be more durable.

The first few balisongs' handles were made of deer horn. When deer were hunted for game and decoration, balisong makers resorted to carabaos, then later, horse bones.

There are many different kinds of balisongs... from the standard "dibuyod" (used for circumcision and shaving), to the popular Rambo blade.

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