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LabanTayo 8th February 2005 02:13 AM

Moro Pira for comment
6 Attachment(s)
Sorry the pics are bad. I'll get better ones once we get some sun.
Any comments on age and local. The blade is lamenated but still has the draw knife marks on it. The blade as you can see, has some impact damage to the edge. There's lots of blood rust on the blade. :D The spine of the blade at the Punto is 1/4" and tapers to the tip. The hilt is made of Carabao horn and the Punto is silver. Inside the Punto where there is usually pitch, its filled with a red and black cloth folded over many times. The scabbard is made of a light weight wood with peg holes on both sides.

BSMStar 8th February 2005 02:39 AM

I was lucky enough to handle this Pira! It is totally awesom!!!!! :)

Congratulations! :D

Andrew 8th February 2005 02:50 AM

That's a very cool sword, Shelley. Thanks for sharing! :)

BTW, how long is it?

LabanTayo 8th February 2005 03:23 AM

thanks for comments bsmstar and andrew.

the blade is 18" and 26 1/2" overall.

VANDOO 8th February 2005 04:55 AM


wilked aka Khun Deng 9th February 2005 11:44 AM

locale and age
Just a novice in this field with a little bit of book learning (I know, it's a dangerous mix) Cato mentions that the older of the two handle styles is the simpler form without much beveling and a fairly steep angle (that's a match) and in the barung section it shows (fig 21) a similar handle on a Yakan barung noting that it is similar to their pira handle. Yours definately has the short ferrule mentioned found on older Yakan barungs also. That combined with the obvious age of the horn, faded and grain separation, I'd say it is Yakan (Zamboanga and Basilan I believe was their main area) and well over the century mark.

mmontoro 9th February 2005 05:00 PM

Shelley, you got a nice sword that one doesn't see very often. Congratulations. I have posted both these images in the past, so I beg the forgiveness of oldtimers, but they do resemble yours stylistically. I believe they're 19th C or very early 20th C. Both have heavy blades, very thick just forward of the hilts. The top one has a delicate pattern of lamination and, if I recall correctly, the bottom example mainly shows a hardened edge after etching. Scabbards on these are not that common, a plus.

The second image is an old, hand colored photo of an individual ready to draw. If the image isn't flopped, the subject is left handed. It would certainly be a more interesting photo if the subject turned out to be female, but the more I look at the photo, the harder it is for me to form an opinion on the gender and age.

LabanTayo 9th February 2005 08:12 PM

manny, vandoo and wilked,
thanks for the info. i knew it might be Yakan, but was hoping to see if anyone knew of any other Moro ethnic groups that might use the Pira.
Age was the main thing I wanted to find out. I have a mid 20th century Pira, and I knew this one was older, but how much older? Are most of the examples seen like this from around the turn of the century, or is there a distinct quality that would state it as older (ie. short ferrule). Does the scabbard help state the age? does the way the hilt is more acute to the spine of the blade state its age? or maybe just the panday's/owners preference.

Ian 10th February 2005 02:46 AM

Nice example
Definitely Yakan, as already mentioned.

A nice older example from the 19th C. judging by its appearance. Very hard to find the truly old ones, although pira in the older style are still being made. Most of the traditional style pira that we see are post-1920, according to my sources in Manila.

Cato says the pira is used almost exclusively by the Yakan, and my Filipino sources say the same thing.


mmontoro 10th February 2005 03:41 PM

For more specific information about age you might check with Cecil Quirino, note the acquistion dates of any examples you are lucky enough to find in museum collections or try to date any photographs/postcards which depict them. Some of the more well read members in PI history and literature may have seen refernces to them in a publication with a known date. There seem to be few enough older Pira around that I think you are looking for needles in a haystack.

Federico 10th February 2005 10:58 PM

Ok, this is just my opinion, and I make no claims at being an expert. However, it would seem to me, that one would be most likely to find pira in pictures taken prior to 1920 more closely to the turn of the century for a few reasons. One after the American ban on traditional weaponry (Im forgetting the exact date), I would imagine the incidence of people wearing traditional weaponry, at least in front of American cameras, would have declined. Secondly, part of the reason I am more inclined to think pics with people wearing pira would be closer to the turn of the century, is that it is at this point, before the US administration started to tighten its grip in the region, that relations amongst US/Moros was most friendly, with few incidence of attacks against Americans reported, so this would be the time when it would be the most safe to take pics of armed persons. Finally, a pic taken by Maude Jenks, (I think it was taken by her, but I cant remember for sure) of a couple of warriors wearing pira was around the turn of the century, and is of striking similarity in style of picture to the type taken (not just the dress of the warrior, but also the picture style itself, the grainy BW, etc...). There is also a limited number of picture studios, and photographers who did this kind of subject at a time, and they were most popular in the early turn of the century. The following site/database is nice as it often contains the date of the pic and the studio name/photographer

While we most associate pira with Yakan, at least as far as Cato's book is concerned he does say the pira was found throughout the Sulu sultanate. However, he distinguishes the ones as Yakan as the ones featuring the typical Yakan features of abbreviated punto, and cockatua style.

Anyways, lovely pira.

zamboanga 12th February 2005 05:56 AM

indeed, piras are exclusive to yakans.

according to Sherfan (the yakans of basilan island, 1976) - the barong and the kris, although popular, are less valuable or admired among the Yakan.

Sherfan further mentions that in the 1700s the sultanate of Sulu ruled over the island of Basilan nominally and had little influence over the Yakans who lived in the interior.

as to the origins of the yakans, some sources claim they have strong links to dayaks of borneo while others claim the yakans have polynesian ancestors.

wilked aka Khun Deng 15th February 2005 01:30 PM

Newer Pira
3 Attachment(s)
Well as long as we're on the subject here's one I picked up recently, it appears to fall into the more recent category. The blade appears to have had some age (prior to someone polishing it) and the handle has a criss-cross inlay of what appears to be aluminum. Any other info would be appreciated.

Rick 15th February 2005 02:29 PM

1 Attachment(s)
So where does that leave us with this old example ?
Yakan , but with a long punto ? :confused:

Conogre 15th February 2005 03:06 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Since everyone is now asking questions, what about these two as well?
The upper one with a knife-like blade may well not fit into the pira category, although the hilt is typical for the style, while the lower one has a notched blade end and the tooled brass covering on the hilt reminds me of Lake Marano (sp?) region pieces that I've seen, and if so, would that still be Yakan?
I've had these a few years now and had a chance to clean them, with both having laminated blades, thus putting them back before the spring steel days at least.

Ian 15th February 2005 05:20 PM

Responses to Mike, Rick, Dan ...
Mike: I think you have two of the "newer" forms that may originate from Mindanao. The top one has a narrow blade profile that resembles some of the swords coming from the Kaolo tribe near Davao City in the province of Davao del Sur (eastern Mindanao). It does not look like a traditional Moro blade shape.

The bottom one has a traditional blade form (age hard to tell), and a brass hilt that resembles some of those seen on recent Maranao pieces from the Lake Lanao region. I suspect that some of the modern pira made in a traditional style are actually made in that area, which is the source for many of the contemporary, dressed-up kris seen on the market today.

Rick: Best I can tell, yours is an old pira from Basilan. The short puntos are more common, but I have now seen several old Yakan pira with the longer style of punto. Just a minor variation, I think.

Dan: Pretty pira and an example of recent manufacture (at least the hilt is recent). Hard to know where this one comes from -- probably Basilan but perhaps Lanao del Sur.

Federico 15th February 2005 09:29 PM

Dan how thick is the blade on your Pira? Had a new one a few years back from Mindanao, the horn hilt was nicely done, but the blade was paper thin. Hardened but paper thin.

Federico 15th February 2005 09:31 PM

Kris Cutlery is selling newly made Pira that they are labelling as being from Jolo, Sulu. Is there a significant Yakan population in Jolo?

Ian 16th February 2005 12:31 AM


Census data (here indicate that there are about 120,000 Yakan, with the vast majority on Basilan, a much smaller fraction in Zamboanga, and smatterings elsewhere. No mention of any Yakan in Jolo.


Federico 16th February 2005 01:07 AM

Originally Posted by Ian

Census data (here indicate that there are about 120,000 Yakan, with the vast majority on Basilan, a much smaller fraction in Zamboanga, and smatterings elsewhere. No mention of any Yakan in Jolo.


That is what I was under the impression, but for a number of years now Kris Cutlery has had new made Pira labelled as being from Jolo. If Pira are Yakan specific, then are these just modern interpretations, similar to Mindanao made barongs today?

zamboanga 16th February 2005 02:58 AM

there are no yakans in sulu. but, there are tausugs in basilan. the present governor (Akbar) there is a tausug while the congressman is yakan (Salapuddin). yakans are found in municipalities of lamitan, sumisip, and the capital, isabela, while the tausugs are found in tipo-tipo. rarely would a yakan or tausug venture into the other's enclave unless he has a death wish.

there is a felt strain in tausug-yakan relations which stretches way back. to the tausugs, this is attributed to the fact that the yakans played a minor role during the moro wars. to quote from a tausug friend their parents always tell them to "never trust a yakan." to the yakans, this is attributed to migration of tausugs to their province (possibily to escape feuds or wars in jolo).

even in modern times, tausug-yakan feuds have been recorded in basilan. even the death of LTP Chairman Tugung in the 80s is attributed to this feud.

as to jolo-made modern interpretations of the pira, that is quite possible.

Federico 18th February 2005 12:38 AM

From the other thread, are 'gasa' Yakan specific?

Of note, the Pira in the Sandata section of Kris Cutlery bare strong resemblance to the modern pira produced by Yakans. If they are modern Tausug interpretations, then they are very similar in their interpretation.

Conogre 18th February 2005 01:44 AM

I have to admit to being confused here...what is it that denotes a weapon as being a particular type, the blade, the hilt, or a specific combination of both?
The contemporary swords that I've seen called "pira" have a hooked wooden hilt and a curved blade that sharply widens at the end with an almost spatulate tip, while many of the older ones seem to have the horn hilt with the extension of the end and a widening blade that ends in an angle.

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