Originally Posted by ashkenaz
I've been seeing claims around some forums that Luzon and Visayan Blades are so weak, that they are made of incredibly soft iron, that they break after a few uses and that even Aztec wooden weapons are more effective, how accurate is this claim?
Well, the Aztec were a warring people with well-trained warriors and the skill of the person wielding a weapon is usually much more important than the skill of the craftsman making it. I've also met Filipinos, especially from the Visayas, who were/are also highly skilled...
For working blades, the Filipino approach is to have a differentially hardened blade on the soft side of things (in old times often with an inserted steel edge): it will easily take a sharp edge and can quickly be resharpened in the field or in the jungle with any pebble from a stream. As already mentioned, the chance of accidentally breaking a decent blade with a soft back is nil. Pure fighting blades tend to be a tad stronger hardened but still will bend under abuse rather than break (and that is a good thing as already mentioned by others). Antique Filipino blades are usually very well crafted with some early laminated pieces equalling Moro blades in quality; and Moro blades were regarded by the Spaniards to be on par with their high-end Toledo steel blades...
The areas under strong colonial rule apparently got reasonable access to imported European steel which results in younger antique and later blades to be often forged from monosteel. Still, these tend to be of reasonable to very good quality. I'd prefer them any day over what is to be found in the drawer of an average "modern" kitchen!
As Ian mentions, modern reproductions may well fall short of expectations, especially if done in stainless steel - obviously, these are meant as curios/wallhangers!
It is to be expected that some bladesmithing skill has been lost during the last century. However, it should be noted that locally crafted Filipino blades are still in active service as fighting blades while most other armed forces just have mere camping tools and rarely a dagger or two left in their arsenals...