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Old 2nd November 2008, 05:22 PM   #13
migueldiaz's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Manila, Phils.
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Originally Posted by Bill Marsh
The first recorded kampilan possibly goes back to the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines -- April 1521. Magellan vs Lapu Lapu. However it is unclear if Lapu Lapu used a kampilan or a cutlass.

Hi Bill,

Most of us have probably read Antonio Pigafetta's account of the death of Magellan:
"Recognizing the captain [Magellan], so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice... A native hurled a bamboo spear into the captain's face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the native'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, 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."

I was just thinking, if it was a "cutlass", then what would it actually be, among the blades of the Visayans then?

I'm now reading William Henry Scott's Barangay -- Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture & Society. This was written in the 1980s I think, and Scott is a leading historian on pre-hispanic Philippines.

So the book is all about how the Philippines was before the arrival of the Spaniards. In the section entitled "The Visayas" and under the "Weapons and War" subsection, we read this:
"There were two kinds of swords -- kris (Visayan kalis) and kampilan, both words of Malay origin. The kris was a long double-edged blade (modern specimens run to 60 to 70 centimeters), either straight or wavy but characterized by an asymmetrical hornlike flare at the hilt end, called kalaw-kalaw after the kalaw hornbill. The wavy kris was called kiwo-kiwo, and so was an astute, devious man whose movement cannot be predicted. Hilts were carved of any solid material -- hardwood, bone, antler, even shell -- and great datu warriors had them of solid gold or encrusted with precious stones. Blades were forged from layers of different grades of steel, which gave them a veined or mottled surface -- damascended or "watered." But even the best Visayan products were considered inferior to those from Mindanao or Sulu, and these in turn were less esteemed than imports from Makassar and Borneo. Alcina thought the best of them excelled Spanish blades.

"The word kampilan came into Spanish during the Moluccan campaigns of the sixteenth century as "a heavy, pointed cutlass [alfange]" -- inappropriately, however, since a cutlass had a curved blade weighted toward the tip for slashing blows, while the kampilan was straight. (Modern ones are two-handed weapons running to 90 centimeters.) It apparently was never manufactured by Visayan smiths but imported from parts of Mindanao, both Muslim and pagan, which had direct culture contact with the Moluccas. Like the kris, it was coated with poison before going into battle, and the fiction that the weapon itself has been rendered poisonous by some alchemy no doubt enhanced its market value. Fine ones were handed down from father to son, bore personal names known to the enemy, and could be recognized by the sound of little bells which formed part of their tasseled decoration."

So there.

The pre-hispanic Visayans (of whom Lapu Lapu was one) had only two basic swords: the kris and the kampilan.

To me thus, the "cutlass" that was used against Magellan in all probability would be a kampilan. If it were the kris, Pigafetta an eyewitness wouldn't have described it like he did: "a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger".

Traditionally in the Philippines, Lapu Lapu is depicted as armed with the kampilan.
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