Famous Filipino Swordsmen
Lapu Lapu
1491-1542 A.D. Lapu-Lapu (Kaliph Pulaka) (1491 – 1542) is considered the first National hero of the Philippines because the Visayan chieftain of Mactan was the first native of the archipelago to have resisted Spanish colonization, at what is now known as the Battle of Mactan.According to the accounts of Antonio Pigafetta…On the morning of April 27, 1521..”forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two cross-bow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, [the natives] had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred persons. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries… The musketeers and crossbow-men shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly…Seeing that, the captain-general ( Portuguese captain Ferdinand Magellan) sent some men to burn their houses in order to terrify them. When they saw their houses burning, they were roused to greater fury. Two of our men were killed near the houses, while we burned twenty or thirty houses. So many of them charged down upon us that they shot the captain through the right leg with a poisoned arrow. On that account, he ordered us to retire slowly, but the men took to flight, except six or eight of us who remained with the captain. The natives shot only at our legs, for the latter were bare; and so many were the spears and stones that they hurled at us, that we could offer no resistance. The mortars in the boats could not aid us as they were too far away.Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice… An Indian hurled a bamboo spear into the captain’s face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the Indian’s body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass (a native sword called a kampilan), which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off.”In Lapu-Lapu’s honor, the Cebuano people have erected a statue and church in Mactan Island and also renamed the town of Opon in Cebu to Lapu-Lapu City.
Common Filipino Swords
KampilanThe Kampilan is a famous long sword widely used in the pre-conquest Philippine Archipelago and still in use by many Filipino Muslims today, especially by the Maguindanao and Maranao Moros. The term “kampilan” is known all over the archipelago, and is mentioned in the ancient Filipino epic Hinilawod of the Hiligaynons. Mactan chieftain Lapu-lapu and his warriors were reported to have wielded this weapon to great effect when they fought against Ferdinand Magellan in the Battle of Mactan on April 27, 1521, since which time the Kampilan has been considered a national weapon of the Moros of Sulu & Mindanao.

As maintained by tradition, the Kampilan is about 40″ to 44″ with a single edge. The blade is thick and narrow at its base while it gets thinner and wider to the truncated point. Some blades have a spike to the point. Kampilans were widely used as “head-hunting” swords on enemies in the southern Philippines, and history tells us they were capable of severing two heads with a single stroke.

The hilt is quite long to counterbalance the weight and length of the blade and so can be used two handed. Most hilts are hardwood, invariably with the same shape: a cross guard (sampak) and a pommel shaped like the open jaws of a crocodile or the tail of the swiftlet (a bird common to the area). Some Kampilan have goat hair tassels sticking out of the butt-end of the handle for a more appealing and intimidating look.

Kampilan scabbards tended to be very simple, traditionally assembled from two pieces of native hardwood that were held together by a thin natural fiber string or rattan lashing, thereby allowing the scabbard to be cut through in case of emergency.
Moro KrisThe kris (or keris as it is known in malaysia) is undoubtedly the most famous and the most common Moro sword. It can be found in Sulu & Mindanao and is used extensively by the Tausug, Samal and Yakan warriors. Variations can be found in every Moro tribe.
Besides being an amazingly effective weapon it (like the swords of the samurai) was also, traditionally, a part of the everyday wear of a man’s dress, symbolic of his status in society. This created conflicts when colonial invaders sought to disarm Moro society.

The kris blade can be identified as being wide on the base and double edged. Though stereotypically kris are thought of as having wavy blades straight blades are equally as common and arguably more practical in combat.

Moro kris were primarily cutting, rather than thrusting, weapons as evidenced by the generally rounded state of their points. The blade commonly ranges in size from 18-26 inches.Malay Keris Malay keris’ were typically pointier than their Moro cousins and used primarily as thrusting weapons. They are also identifiable by the damascene pattern found on the blades themselves, and the fact that they are made with a separate gangya (guard).

Hilt variations are many, from the straight horse-hoof to the cockatua. Commonly the pommel was made of hardwood with the hilt being wrapped in a lacquered natural fiber. The axis of the hilt is always at an angle which, when properly held with the guard up, conforms to the cutting arc, maximizing the cutting potential of the blade.

The kris were also thought to possess strong talismanic properties as an anting-anting (talisman/amulet). It is said that a higher number of waves increased a kris’s potency.

The origin of the Kris is rather vague and folklore gives many varying accounts. The wavy blades are thought to represent, a flame, a serpent, a dragon, a lightning bolt or a stingray’s tail. Waves were also thought to be symbolic of what region someone came from, or their position in the community. The Kris with the most waves was traditionally carried by the person in authority.
Moro BarongThe Barong (sometimes spelled Borung) were popularized by the Muslims, especially the Tausug tribes of the Southern Philippines. Later they reached the Mangyan Tribes of Mindoro and Tagalogs of the Eastern Luzon Provinces. The barong is also the favored weapon of the people of the Sultunate of Sulu.

It’s generally single edged, leaf shaped blade makes it easily recognizable. It is an amazingly effective slicer said to have the ability to cleave a man in two. The blade is generally thick and heavy which adds to its slicing ability. Barong blade lengths tend to range from 8-22 inches (typically newer blades tend to in the 18-22″ range) with 6-7″ handle.

The most common pommel motif is the cockatua, with a long metal ferrule that tend to be around 3″ in length. Cockatuas tended to be made of banati, however sometimes rarer materials such as ivory and carabao horn were used.

The Barong is said to be the preferred blade of the Kuntaoists (Kuntao players) in Southern Mindanao. 
GolokGolok is the name given to a range of large knives and short swords originating from Indonesia, most notably from Myanmar (Burma). Unlike many of the other blades of the region that began as utility tools and were adapted to warfare as necessary the Golok was only ever designed for one purpose to chop heads and limbs off of the enemy.

Sizes and weights vary, as does blade shape. However a typical Golok has an overall length of 25″ and a blade length of 19″. Goloks tend to be heavier and shorter than Machetes, often being used for bush and branch cutting. Goloks are traditionally made with a springy carbon-steel blade of a softer temper than that of other large knives. This makes them easier to sharpen in the field, although it also requires more frequent attention.

The Golok was made famous in Britain after the initial defeat of the British army by the Japanese during the Burma Campaign in December 1941. Today the Martindale # 2 Golok is the current jungle knife of Britian’s Special Air Service commandos.
GinuntingThe Ginunting which resembles a scissor blade draws its name from Tagalog/Filipino word “gunting”, meaning scissors. Blade length is typically approximately 20″ with an overall length of 26-27″. The Ginunting originates from the central region of the Philippines, the Visayas archipelago. The Ginunting is the principle bladed weapon of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali. Since the Force Recon Marines of the Philippines train in Pekiti-Tirsia, the Ginunting is also their official close combat weapon, and is routinely carried along with their M16s.

The length of the weapon is usually between 24 and 28 inches. Due to the beak-shaped blade design with a tip that is curved downward, similar to Kukris of the Gurkhas, it cuts very deeply and easily, which makes it perfect for clearing brush, chopping wood, or as a weapon to carry.
The handle, is usually made of hardwood or horn.
TalibongThe “Talibong” or “Talibon” sword was seen in the northern Philippines during the later part of the Spanish era to the early American regime. One the principle bladed weapons of the Western Visayas islands, the talibong, is a sword used by the Christian Filipinos of Cebu.The angle of the blade in relation to the hilt creates a “leading edge”, which makes the talibong a good cutting implement, and it’s forward “set” makes it well suited to thrusting.Originally used for hunting, this sword was adapted as a weapon during the later part of the Spanish era.

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