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Old 3rd April 2018, 09:31 AM   #1
Pinoy Blade Hunter
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Default vintage panabas for comment

recently bought this panabas

blade length is 10 inches, handle is 14 inches bound with iron and brass

the end of the handle is bound with iron and looks like it has 2 wedges hammered in.

this may be a newer piece, but which decade maybe?
also, are there distinct characteristics which may tell the place of origin?

salamat

PBH

(also pictured, side by side with modern production of mountain province head axes. and also my growing moro collection)
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Old 3rd April 2018, 12:39 PM   #2
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Hello PBH:

I think what you have is a cousin of the panabas, what is called a tabas that is used mainly for agricultural purposes. I also have one of these smaller examples that is not very old. Even though it is obviously well made, I was told by a friend in Davao City that my example was a tool rather than a weapon.

As far as the age of yours, I would say late 20th C.--perhaps 20-30 years old or thereabouts. There is nothing really distinctive about the piece that would suggest its source of manufacture, but I would guess it is probably from Mindanao. Interesting file work on the end of the blade.

Ian.
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Old 3rd April 2018, 01:24 PM   #3
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thank you for your insights, ian.

i thought this was the 'weapon' grade panabas. because there were other bigger panabas-type blades there but with bamboo handles and with wire wrapping. that to me looked more like agricultural implements.

i guess i was wrong.
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Old 3rd April 2018, 09:55 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pinoy Blade Hunter
... i thought this was the 'weapon' grade panabas. because there were other bigger panabas-type blades there but with bamboo handles and with wire wrapping. that to me looked more like agricultural implements. ...
The usual weapon forms are indeed quite large and often heavy. In combat they were often a "mopping up" weapon used to dispatch wounded enemy. They could also be used as "heavy assault" weapons but the weight of some of these would prohibit "dueling" unless the person was extremely strong and skilled. There are lighter combat versions too. The double-edged padsumbalim variant usually has a lighter blade and might serve hand-to-hand combat better.

Panabas were also used for ceremonial and execution purposes, and for administering harsh penalties such as the removal of a hand for convicted thieves, although I think these uses have been somewhat over stated and relate mainly to practices prior to WWII.

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Old 11th April 2018, 04:29 PM   #5
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Very nice panabas indeed. Off topic, but the keris you have at the topmost portion of the picture without a hilt, does that not look indonesian to you?

Sure looks like an indonesian keris to me
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Old 11th April 2018, 10:50 PM   #6
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ACP, you make a good observation.

The earlier back in time, the more Moro kris blades look Indonesian, until you get to the mid to late 1700s where a Moro kris blade is hard to distinguish from a large Indonesian kris (though there are markers).
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Old 18th April 2018, 06:46 PM   #7
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PBH,

I was traveling when I last wrote to you and did not have access to my archives. Attached is a picture of the one I mentioned earlier. It is rather short for a panabas, measuring 26 inches overall, and was made in the late 20th C. I purchased it in Davao City in 2005 and was told it was from the Lake Lanao region (i.e., Maranao in manufacture). Note that my example also has evidence of similar file work at its end as does yours, and I suspect they share a common heritage. The finger cut outs on mine are something I have not seen on other panabas or tabas--I think they improve the ergonomics for chopping with this weapon/tool.

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Old 20th April 2018, 12:40 PM   #8
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Thanks ian,

That is a nicer looking tabas than mine. banati wood on the handle?
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Old 20th April 2018, 03:56 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ACP
Off topic, but the keris you have at the topmost portion of the picture without a hilt, does that not look indonesian to you?

Sure looks like an indonesian keris to me


Yes, Jose is correct what he has stated but the single kris blade is a very old Moro blade. Like Jose said, they look a little bit Indonesian, by this you can see from where the Moro kris has it's roots.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 20th April 2018, 07:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
ACP, you make a good observation.

The earlier back in time, the more Moro kris blades look Indonesian, until you get to the mid to late 1700s where a Moro kris blade is hard to distinguish from a large Indonesian kris (though there are markers).


I suspect one of those is the square tang
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Old 9th January 2019, 04:57 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
The usual weapon forms are indeed quite large and often heavy. In combat they were often a "mopping up" weapon used to dispatch wounded enemy. They could also be used as "heavy assault" weapons but the weight of some of these would prohibit "dueling" unless the person was extremely strong and skilled. There are lighter combat versions too. The double-edged padsumbalim variant usually has a lighter blade and might serve hand-to-hand combat better.

Panabas were also used for ceremonial and execution purposes, and for administering harsh penalties such as the removal of a hand for convicted thieves, although I think these uses have been somewhat over stated and relate mainly to practices prior to WWII.

Ian.


Hi Ian, hope you won't mind me digging up an old thread. My BangsaMoro friends- to be precise, a Tausug, a Yakan, and a Maguindanaoan- have all disputed the pervasive definition of the panabas as a "mopping up" weapon used to dispatch wounded enemies. Some definitions even go as far as to claim that women and children did this task- a very false claim, because imagine- how would women and children be able to carry such a heavy weapon into the battlefield?

My sources believe- as do I- that the 'battle' panabas was a strictly ceremonial and execution weapon, and not at all brought to the battlefield. From what I've studied of Moro Fighting Arts (MFA) and my handling of a small sample of modern and antique BangsaMoro weapons, there would be no 'mopping up' necessary. The main battle blades- kampilan, barung, kris, pira, etc- are already capable of decapitating or maiming enemies in one strike.

Oh, and nice panabas. I hope to get a modern version one of these days; I heard there are traditional smiths in Maguindanao who are still up to the task. The problem is accessibility, as they are located within a perennial warzone.
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Old 9th January 2019, 05:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen
Yes, Jose is correct what he has stated but the single kris blade is a very old Moro blade. Like Jose said, they look a little bit Indonesian, by this you can see from where the Moro kris has it's roots.

Regards,
Detlef

Have you etched this blade? You might be pleasantly surprised.
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Old 9th January 2019, 06:45 PM   #13
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Here's an old panabas that has similar filework on the edge. i've lost the note that was taped on the handle, and i believe it says Mindanao, 1905 or 06, can't quite remember
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Old 10th January 2019, 10:21 AM   #14
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Hi xasterix:

Thanks for the interesting thoughts and information from your sources. As far as panabas used as weapons on the battlefield, I seem to recall that Captain Pershing's expeditions in the Lake Lanao region during the early 1900s reported the use of the panabas on the battlefield, and may have collected examples as battlefield pickups. I will try to find the reports of those expeditions. I think related materials were deposited with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Krieger's publication by the Smithsonian (see elsewhere on this site for the figures/plates from that publication) might show some of the Pershing collection.

In support of the panabas as a battlefield weapon, I own a plain example with an old blade guard made from a grooved length of carved wood about an inch wide running the length of the cutting edge, that is held in place by a narrow piece of cloth wrapped around the blade and guard several times. This arrangement seems designed for transporting the panabas rather than using it for ceremonial or judicial purposes. Occasional wooden sheaths made of two pieces of wood held together by light rattan strips are also found. The main function of sheaths/scabbards are to facilitate transportation of the weapon. I have also heard from contacts in Mindanao that the panabas was carried into battle wrapped in cloth—however, my contacts were not Moros.

The padsumbalin panabas seems particularly well suited for combat, often being double-edged. I have a couple of these that are lighter than most other versions of the panabas.

Use of the panabas as a "mop-up" weapon has been reported, notably by Robert Cato in his book Moro Weapons, and others have made similar comments. However, I don't know of an historical reference to support that function. As you note, swords would have been equally effective. My earlier comment about its use as a "mop-up" weapon was based on these sources, but I have no hard evidence to support that use.

Ian

Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
Hi Ian, hope you won't mind me digging up an old thread. My BangsaMoro friends- to be precise, a Tausug, a Yakan, and a Maguindanaoan- have all disputed the pervasive definition of the panabas as a "mopping up" weapon used to dispatch wounded enemies. Some definitions even go as far as to claim that women and children did this task- a very false claim, because imagine- how would women and children be able to carry such a heavy weapon into the battlefield?

My sources believe- as do I- that the 'battle' panabas was a strictly ceremonial and execution weapon, and not at all brought to the battlefield. From what I've studied of Moro Fighting Arts (MFA) and my handling of a small sample of modern and antique BangsaMoro weapons, there would be no 'mopping up' necessary. The main battle blades- kampilan, barung, kris, pira, etc- are already capable of decapitating or maiming enemies in one strike.

Oh, and nice panabas. I hope to get a modern version one of these days; I heard there are traditional smiths in Maguindanao who are still up to the task. The problem is accessibility, as they are located within a perennial warzone.
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Old 10th January 2019, 01:19 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
Hi xasterix:

Thanks for the interesting thoughts and information from your sources. As far as panabas used as weapons on the battlefield, I seem to recall that Captain Pershing's expeditions in the Lake Lanao region during the early 1900s reported the use of the panabas on the battlefield, and may have collected examples as battlefield pickups. I will try to find the reports of those expeditions. I think related materials were deposited with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Krieger's publication by the Smithsonian (see elsewhere on this site for the figures/plates from that publication) might show some of the Pershing collection.

In support of the panabas as a battlefield weapon, I own a plain example with an old blade guard made from a grooved length of carved wood about an inch wide running the length of the cutting edge, that is held in place by a narrow piece of cloth wrapped around the blade and guard several times. This arrangement seems designed for transporting the panabas rather than using it for ceremonial or judicial purposes. Occasional wooden sheaths made of two pieces of wood held together by light rattan strips are also found. The main function of sheaths/scabbards are to facilitate transportation of the weapon. I have also heard from contacts in Mindanao that the panabas was carried into battle wrapped in cloth—however, my contacts were not Moros.

The padsumbalin panabas seems particularly well suited for combat, often being double-edged. I have a couple of these that are lighter than most other versions of the panabas.

Use of the panabas as a "mop-up" weapon has been reported, notably by Robert Cato in his book Moro Weapons, and others have made similar comments. However, I don't know of an historical reference to support that function. As you note, swords would have been equally effective. My earlier comment about its use as a "mop-up" weapon was based on these sources, but I have no hard evidence to support that use.

Ian


Noted on this, sir. One of my BangsaMoro friends- a former member of this forum, and I believe the foremost expert on PH traditional blades- has expressed doubts regarding the accuracy of Cato's information. The Moros would not readily give up information on their culture or weaponry; in effect, Mr Cato may very well have been told tall tales. I agree some panabas were built for transport, but not as battlefield weapons; rather, as intimidation tools, a sign of potency of a ranking Moro chieftain that would be transported and displayed along with his retinue of best warriors. My evidence for this are the junggayan-style barungs- yes, they were sharp and had functional scabbards, but they aren't the go-to weapons during battle; they served better as status indicator and intimidation tool. Same goes for other BangsaMoro weapons with elaborate designs- the reason for their preservation was that they were never really in the fray.
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Old 10th January 2019, 01:33 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
Noted on this, sir. One of my BangsaMoro friends- a former member of this forum, and I believe the foremost expert on PH traditional blades- has expressed doubts regarding the accuracy of Cato's information. The Moros would not readily give up information on their culture or weaponry; in effect, Mr Cato may very well have been told tall tales. I agree some panabas were built for transport, but not as battlefield weapons; rather, as intimidation tools, a sign of potency of a ranking Moro chieftain that would be transported and displayed along with his retinue of best warriors. My evidence for this are the junggayan-style barungs- yes, they were sharp and had functional scabbards, but they aren't the go-to weapons during battle; they served better as status indicator and intimidation tool. Same goes for other BangsaMoro weapons with elaborate designs- the reason for their preservation was that they were never really in the fray.

Wow, could not agree more. I have often said Cato, while currently the best out there, should be taken with a grain of salt. I own many Moro weapons, the ones that are Datu class I would never think of using in a battle. While the blades are of top quality the balance is all wrong. I have weapons that I would classify as fighters. No frills, no fancy handles, just solid well balanced tools. When compared to the higher class blades, there is not comparison. To bring this back to the Panabas. My thoughts are they may have been used in battle. Better than nothing, but I would not want to be swinging a Panabas against a spear or sword. Just too slow. It would be an excellent mop up weapon or status symbol. I am in full agreement with xasterix on this.
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Old 10th January 2019, 03:25 PM   #17
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Here's the difficulty: Moros more than a century ago (and anyone else then for that matter) are different than their descendants today in a different culture and usage of tools. Much has been lost even in Western generations.

Thus I would not be surprised if there is some truth in both of these views.
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Old 11th January 2019, 02:54 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
Here's the difficulty: Moros more than a century ago (and anyone else then for that matter) are different than their descendants today in a different culture and usage of tools. Much has been lost even in Western generations.

Thus I would not be surprised if there is some truth in both of these views.


Although I have to point out that, due to the isolation of the BangsaMoro from most outside influences and the rest of the Philippines (Luzon, Visayas), they have much better cascading of oral and written tradition regarding their culture, fighting arts, and weaponry. My BangsaMoro friends are able to differentiate the features and nuances of antique and modern weaponry, especially since they have century-old weapons in their keeping (usually family heirlooms). There is also a trend that isolated areas in the Philippines- especially those under military contention- incidentally have the most number of traditional smiths who are able to build traditional blades that are not influenced by modern trends, and are very close in design and function to their antique counterparts.

I would be willing to concede that the panabas can be considered a mop-up weapon IF the survivors were brought to the panabas (situated at camp, inside city walls, or a corner of the battlefield) for summary public execution (yet another intimidation tactic), rather than the panabas be lugged and used against the writhing survivors in the battlefield itself. It's redundant and unnecessary to use a heavy weapon as a mop-up tool, when the warriors who had just survived the battlefield can do the job more efficiently with their lighter weapons.
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Old 14th January 2019, 11:18 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
One of my BangsaMoro friends- a former member of this forum, and I believe the foremost expert on PH traditional blades- has expressed doubts regarding the accuracy of Cato's information. The Moros would not readily give up information on their culture or weaponry; in effect, Mr Cato may very well have been told tall tales. I agree some panabas were built for transport, but not as battlefield weapons; rather, as intimidation tools, a sign of potency of a ranking Moro chieftain that would be transported and displayed along with his retinue of best warriors. My evidence for this are the junggayan-style barungs- yes, they were sharp and had functional scabbards, but they aren't the go-to weapons during battle; they served better as status indicator and intimidation tool. Same goes for other BangsaMoro weapons with elaborate designs- the reason for their preservation was that they were never really in the fray.


Xasterix, what are your BangsaMoro friends opinions on these type of Panabas’.
Would these type be considered battlefield weapons.
They’re nice to look at, I would like to have one but in my opinion not as intimidating as the other BangsaMoro edged weapons.
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Old 15th January 2019, 02:50 AM   #20
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I think this one has seen some sort of excitement; the edge is ragged as if it was used to attack wire, and it sports a bullet wound at the wide end where the dark spot is.
The blade is quite thick where it terminates at the handle..
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Old 15th January 2019, 12:39 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kino
Xasterix, what are your BangsaMoro friends opinions on these type of Panabas’.
Would these type be considered battlefield weapons.
They’re nice to look at, I would like to have one but in my opinion not as intimidating as the other BangsaMoro edged weapons.


Hi sir, that one is used for gardening.

Although as a Tausug friend said... It's still an object of opportunity with an edge...
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Old 15th January 2019, 12:42 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
I think this one has seen some sort of excitement; the edge is ragged as if it was used to attack wire, and it sports a bullet wound at the wide end where the dark spot is.
The blade is quite thick where it terminates at the handle..


I agree, that one looks like it's been through a lot.

In the absence of my main weapon, I would grab anything with an edge within my immediate vicinity.

Someone must have used this thing as a never-say-die last hurrah
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Old 15th January 2019, 06:12 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
Hi sir, that one is used for gardening.

Although as a Tausug friend said... It's still an object of opportunity with an edge...


Thanks.
I would not have ever thought of that. Some of these are constructed elaborately. Too nice just for field work. Perhaps it's a testament to the Pandays skill.

But it makes a forminable tool. Vines, twigs and branches would be shaking like a leaf in its presence
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Old 15th January 2019, 09:53 PM   #24
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nah, for buyo (betel nut), brah, lol. must've been owned by a high ranking datu
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Old 17th January 2019, 11:42 AM   #25
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nah, for buyo (betel nut), brah, lol. must've been owned by a high ranking datu


I totally agree.
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Old 17th January 2019, 02:48 PM   #26
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I'm in the camp that these are primarily status symbols, whatever they are used for. They definitely would not be my first choice for a weapon, but in a pinch they'll do.
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