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Old 8th July 2019, 12:55 AM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 41
Default Mangyan bolo?

I picked this little item up many years ago, but haven't gotten around to determining its origins 'til now. The overall length is 20 inches/508 mm, with a blade length of 14.25 inches/362 mm and blade width of 1.325 inches/33.6 mm. The spine of the blade at the ferrule is .312 inches/8 mm. It seems like it may fall into the category of a Philippine Mangyan bolo based on these search hits: and

The key characteristics are a full tang blade peened at the pommel and a very slight curve along its length that terminates in a slight upward kick at the tip; a beveled and fluted horn grip (water buffalo, perhaps); a long, but crudely formed grip ferrule that appears to have been forge-welded with copper; and, a carved wooden sheath. Although the blade's edge has seen some minor deformation in spots, most of the edge is very sharp and extends to about three-quarters of the circumference of the bull-nosed tip. There is no lamination visible anywhere in the blade. In fact, the blade surface is surprisingly uniform, lacking the subtle ripples and waves that one often finds on hand-forged blades.

Interestingly, the spine of the blade is marked with the initials R.P.A. and there is a brass letter A embedded in the face of the sheath and held in place with a small iron staple. The A, which I think must represent the owner's surname given the spine marking, looks like it might have been removed from a US military badge denoting A Company, and repurposed as a personalization by the owner. I think that kind of badge may have been more common in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War than after WWII.

The sheath is quite well-made and nicely carved, with a decorative internal ridge that parallels the shape of the blade very accurately. There is also a cross-shaped decoration on the face of the sheath at the throat, and a drain slot at the tip to allow rainwater to flow through the sheath without pooling. The face and back of the sheath are joined by thin copper rods that are peened flat on both sides (I wonder if these rods are just short lengths of heavy copper wire that have been stripped of insulation and cut to fit). A cord of rough, twisted fibre provides a loop that runs from two steel suspension eyelets that have been fixed in the thickest portion of the sheath face. There's an attendant length of this fibre cord that has been broken, but would appear to have been attached to a belt, perhaps as extra insurance against loss.

Given the use of Roman letters, as opposed to the logographic characters or syllabic script that one might expect on a tribal weapon, I wonder if this isn't a tool cooked-up after the SAW or post-WWII, when Western influence and military badges were [presumably] more common.

It impresses me as a honest, no-nonsense workman's tool that was made with a bias for function over form. Other thoughts?
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