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Old 31st December 2014, 09:35 PM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Little House on the Prairie
Posts: 2,383

Originally Posted by Spunjer
spot on, Ian! for this same reason why i take Cato's book with a grain of salt...
let's take the most commonly used term from his book: Kakatua. supposedly, the pommel on krises and barungs are representation of the cockatoo bird, or kakatua, as Cato called it. but is it, really?
there's one specie of cockatoo bird in the Philippines, and it's only found in certain parts of the Philippines. there were probably big population in Mindanao and Sulu a long time ago, but not anymore in this day and age. another thing is, why aren't cockatoos mentioned in any legends or sagas? or represented anywhere else in the Moros' ukkil art? for that matter, the term kakatua is not even a filipino word. i believe the term kakatua was a carryover from the 1920's and 1930's when weapon catalogs would refer to these as cockatoo (like) pommels.
I believe the word kakatua is of Malay origin and refers to the bird that we call a cockatoo. It is possible that the word has been passed down from its Malay origins and is applied correctly to barung and kris hilts. Even though cockatoos are no longer widespread in the Philippines, and there may be no history of cockatoos among their legends, the vestigial Malay term may well have persisted as these swords made their transition to the Philippines. Or it is possible that Cato or some other authority simply took a term used in other Malay cultures and applied it inappropriately to the Moro examples.

We can see many examples of both processes in ethnographic arms and armor. There are many examples of foreign words being incorporated into the Philippine dialects (bolo, daga, keris/kris, kelewang/klewang, parang, pisau, sumpit/sumpitan, etc.). There are also plenty of examples where outsiders have used completely alien terms to describe native weapons.

In regard to the latter, we talk about native weapons having fullers, clipped points, pommels, hilts, chisel grinds, bolsters, ferrules, ricassos, features "at forte", etc. None of these are terms used in the original cultures, but we all apply them and we readily understand what we are talking about because the Western European meaning of these terms is our common knowledge.

Once again, we can get caught up in the "name game." Alan Maisey is absolutely correct in warning us against engaging in this exercise, unless we are willing to delve deeply into the culture and history of the weapons and the people who use them. Even then, this may be a futile exercise because the meaning of some things has become lost or obscured by time.

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