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Old 11th April 2009, 04:34 PM   #1
migueldiaz
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Default Of bolo rush & bolomen

During the Philippine Revolution (vs. Spain, 1896-1898) and the subsequent Philippine-American War (1899-1913), the "bolomen" comprised a large portion of the fledgling Philippine army, because of the sheer lack of firearms.

A rough statistic can be found in the excerpt below, from an article The Legend of the Colt .45 Caliber Semi-Automatic Pistol and the Moros, from the same author (Robert Fulton) of the excellent book, MOROLAND 1899-1906: America's First Attempt to Transform an Islamic Society (2007).

Here's an extended quote, to put things in context:
In the late 19th century, the U.S. Army’s Bureau of Ordinance, the U.S. Navy, and the Marines adopted the Colt Model 1894 .38 caliber double-action (DA) revolver as the standard sidearm .... The first test of the Colt .38 came with Spanish-American War of April to August, 1898, whose single land battle was fought in Cuba. But that conflict, with only two-days of actual combat, was far too short to provide any reasonable conclusion. However, the far more deadly and extended conflict which came out of that war, the Philippine-American War (known then as the Philippine Insurrection) soon proved that the fears about the smaller caliber had been entirely justified. In contrast to the Spanish-American War, one of the shortest conflicts in this nation’s history, the Philippine-American War lasted almost as long as World War II, from February, 1899 to July 4, 1902. It began as a “conventional” war but before its first year ended had morphed into a guerrilla war; in fact being the first of its kind and setting the pattern for the many “wars of national liberation” that would become a hallmark of the mid-20th century. It was what we would term today an “asymmetric” contest. It was also the U.S. Army’s first experience with jungle warfare and fighting against a full-blown insurgency in a foreign land.

The Filipino “Army of Liberation” (solely drawn from the northern Christian provinces of the islands) was poorly armed, with only about one rifle for every three-to-four of its soldiers. An even bigger problem for the rebels was lack of ammunition; due to lack of funds and the efficiency of the U.S. Navy in catching and deterring gun-runners. The Army of Liberation generally had to rely on making its own bullets, using home-made black powder and brass curtain rods. Many U.S. historians have belittled the military ability and leadership of the Army of Liberation, comparing it unfavorably to the Viet Minh and Viet Cong of more than fifty years later. But the fact is the Filipinos were as motivated, tough, and potentially as deadly as the Vietnamese, but unlike the NVA and Viet Cong they did not have the relative luxury of an unlimited stream of modern weapons, abundant ammunition, and foreign trainers, all provided gratis by a friendly superpower (the USSR). Otherwise there might have been a far different outcome. Even then 4,234 Americans killed out of 126,468 “cycled through” gave that war the dubious distinction of having one of the higher “death rates” for American wars, that is troops committed to troops dying, half-again higher than the decade-long Vietnam War.

Now I've been looking for photos documenting the types of bolos used by Filipino soldiers then.

So far I've only found two (below), and I wonder if some of us can identify all or at least most them? I've put numbers in the pics, for easier referencing.

Unfortunately the source of the pics did not indicate where the photos were taken.

Admittedly, identifying the bolos will be hard as the pics are small. The only that I can readily recognize would be a Samar garab (number 3).
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Old 11th April 2009, 04:53 PM   #2
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Just how effective is the bolo vs. firearms? ... as stupid as the question may sound

While not efficient (casualty rate among bolomen was obviously high), just the same when employed properly tactically, the result can be effective.

Here's a continuation of Fulton's article:
Like all good guerilla fighters, the Filipinos were improvisers. They took advantage of the tropical topography with its exceptionally high grasses (well over six feet tall), dense jungles, and winding, constricted trails, to mount ambushes using a tactic called “the bolo rush”. The Philippine bolo is a fearsome, short (16” to 18”), single-edged, razor-sharp cutting weapon. Every farmer had one and knew how to use it, whether for harvesting crops, hacking trails through jungle, or taking off a limb in a fight. A large force, often 100-200 “bolo men” would lie hidden near a trail. When a smaller American patrol came along in single-file, Filipino snipers would fire, forcing them to drop for cover. At a signal, the bolo men would rush the soldiers lying prone on the trail, inevitably losing many in their ranks to rifle fire but occasionally overwhelming the Americans with their sheer numbers and the ferocity of the charge. Commissioned officers and sergeants, armed only with the Colt .38 revolver, were a primary target.

Think about it! There you are, suddenly sprawled in the mud of a narrow jungle trail, scared as hell, hearing the thud of hundreds of feet and screams in a language you don’t understand. You can’t see more than a few feet because of the thick grass and vegetation. Suddenly several blurry shapes are running towards you. And all you have in your hands is this “little popgun”. It is not a question of getting off a quick shot or two. With the Colt .38, if you did not hit each attacker in a vital part, the head or heart, the bullet would go right through the man. For the attacker it was a terrible, sharp pain but a small, clean hole that would not slow his momentum. For you it could mean death in a few seconds. Understandably there was major anger from men in the field over the inadequacy of the Colt .38 (and sometimes the limited stopping power of the otherwise excellent Krag 30-40 rifle).

Complaints were made to the Army’s Bureau of Ordinance ...

As an aside, though the clamor for a higher caliber sidearm [.45] is more associated with the encounter with the Moros, as Fulton pointed out the origins can actually be traced back to the US military's earlier experience with the bolomen of northern (Luzon) and central (Visayas) Philippines.
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Old 11th April 2009, 05:00 PM   #3
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Here's a 1906 New York Times article, describing a classical bolo rush tactic in action ... a trail, the few guns, the volley, and then the "rush" --
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Old 11th April 2009, 11:32 PM   #4
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Default Very I would say

Quote:
Originally Posted by migueldiaz
Just how effective is the bolo vs. firearms? ... as stupid as the question may sound


Knife VS gun, I beleive very effective and more so in days of old looking at that holster. I beleive there are police stats you could draw from here too, from memory a man with a knife could be 20 feet away and rush an officer an would be upon him before the officer could draw and shoot.....

Gav
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Old 12th April 2009, 03:56 AM   #5
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A bit of a twist, on "Bolo Men". Only these guys were on the other side. For those who may not know, their Model 1903 rifles are sporting the rare model 1915 bolo bayonet. Click on the thumbnail in the upper left-hand corner. http://images.google.com/imgres?img...3DN%26um%3D1the
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Old 12th April 2009, 12:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freebooter
Knife VS gun, I beleive very effective and more so in days of old looking at that holster. I beleive there are police stats you could draw from here too, from memory a man with a knife could be 20 feet away and rush an officer an would be upon him before the officer could draw and shoot..... Gav

That's a very appropriate analogy, Gav. Thanks

Here in Manila, there's a story about a rookie policeman who tried apprehending from a distance, a petty criminal armed with a knife. Long story short -- the criminal poised to attack, then the policeman fired several rounds with his pistol but wasn't able to make any hit due to extreme stress, and the policeman ended up being butchered by the criminal.

I think though that the story is apocryphal. But maybe it's not entirely fictitious either.

Here's a more factual recap about such firearm vs. blade encounters, from the last chapter of Vic Hurley's Jungle Patrol (1938) --
In summing up the campaigns of the Philippine Constabulary [its early officers pictured below, with Capt. Henry Allen (folded arms)], a discussion of the weapons at hand or the marksmanship of the men is not sufficient to explain the greatness of these jungle campaigners. The point involved is their terrain of battle.

The rifle and the revolver and even the machine gun lose much of their authority in dense jungle. The visibility is poor and the firing range exceedingly short. The number of rounds a man can fire is limited; too quickly, the combat reaches close quarters. With a Krag rifle and a .45 Colt revolver, every Constabulary soldier of the later days had a potential firing possibility of eleven shots without reloading. He was often outnumbered twenty to one, or more than twenty to one. The principle of the campaigns involved, not the destructive possibilities of the eleven shots at his command; to be considered most was that grim element of time. In the face of a sudden bolo rush, the police often had time, for but two or three shots before the action was man to man. And against impossible odds.

For bruising shoulder-to-shoulder work, the native weapons remain the best in that jungle scene that developed them. At close quarters, the Moro kris or the pulajan talibong have destructive qualities not surpassed by the modern automatic pistol or the sub-machine gun.

The passage of a high-velocity bullet through the body is killing but not immediately fatal; sometimes, in the heat of battle, men can remain on their feet, desperately wounded, for a lengthy period of time. But the last despairing swing of a bolo blade, in the hands of a dead man riddled with bullets, could be deadly ...

The other Hurley book on swords vs. firearms, is of course Swish of the Kris (1936). The entire book can be read from here.
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Old 12th April 2009, 12:39 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trenchwarfare
A bit of a twist, on "Bolo Men". Only these guys were on the other side. For those who may not know, their Model 1903 rifles are sporting the rare model 1915 bolo bayonet. Click on the thumbnail in the upper left-hand corner. http://images.google.com/imgres?img...3DN%26um%3D1the

Thanks for the comment!

And I've always thought that such a huge bayonet must have meant that the Moro trooper used a barong!
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Old 12th April 2009, 12:44 PM   #8
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The other way of implementing a bolo rush is by using the cover of darkness.

Here's another related New York Times article:
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Old 12th April 2009, 12:47 PM   #9
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Another article (same thing, use of the cover of darkness):
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Old 12th April 2009, 09:49 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freebooter
Knife VS gun, I beleive very effective and more so in days of old looking at that holster. I beleive there are police stats you could draw from here too, from memory a man with a knife could be 20 feet away and rush an officer an would be upon him before the officer could draw and shoot.....

Gav
Quite correct:
Quote:
take a common training scenario: an edged-weapon suspect charges toward an officer from a distance of 21 feet. Using averages, the attacker's first stride is at about 3 mph. But accelerating, he can reach a speed of 12 mph or more and cover 21 feet in about 1.7 seconds in about 5 steps. Considering that the average officer requires about 1.5 seconds to draw and fire one round from a Level 2 holster (not even allowing for his initial reaction time), his disadvantage in this situation is made crystal clear.
-Force Science News
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Old 13th April 2009, 02:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Berkley
Quite correct:
-Force Science News

Thanks! I love this kind of analysis ... quantified ... and thus very specific and can be conclusive
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Old 13th April 2009, 11:11 PM   #12
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By the way, in the modern Philippine military, poor shots in a marksmanship class are jokingly assigned the rank of "boloman"!

The idea of course is to move away from that informal rank as quickly as possible ...

Photo below shows Phil. Marines in Patikul, Sulu.
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Old 13th April 2009, 11:26 PM   #13
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Going back to the topic of blades used by bolomen as documented in old photos, so far I've not stumbled into other pics.

In John Foreman's "The Philippine Islands" (1906), there's these two photos (below) of "Christian" and "Moro" blades. But it didn't say whether these are capture pieces.

Obviously though, the center Moro sword is not a capture piece -- the photo's caption is: Weapons of the Moros. (Left) “Bárong”; (right) “Kris”; (centre) The Sultan of Suluʼs dress sword, presented to the author by His Excellency.

The caption of the other photo is: Bowie-knives and Weapons of the Christian Natives. Central figure—“Talibon.” The others—Bowie-knives (Sp. Bolo, Tag. Guloc).
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Old 14th April 2009, 12:25 AM   #14
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Just out of curiosity (I hope I'm not off-topic), are the majority of non-tourist Talibon made after the fall of the Spanish rule in PI? I am wondering because I remember reading of a Spanish law forbidding Filipinos from owning bolos with points to them, one of their measures to stamp out armed resistance.
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Old 14th April 2009, 04:39 AM   #15
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The "NO POINT" rule must have been in effect in all of Spains colonial holdings. The Collins Co. sample boards show many examples of all types of machetes, with clipped points. All are from Cuban, Central, and South American contracts. Don't know about the Philippines contracts. Most of that market was filled by Germany, and other European cutlers. I don't know why they bothered. Lots of African machetes are pointless, but they manage to work each other over pretty good anyway.
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Old 14th April 2009, 02:49 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KuKulzA28
Just out of curiosity (I hope I'm not off-topic), are the majority of non-tourist Talibon made after the fall of the Spanish rule in PI? I am wondering because I remember reading of a Spanish law forbidding Filipinos from owning bolos with points to them, one of their measures to stamp out armed resistance.



One must keep in mind and make note, when Spain ruled the Philippines for +300 years, they DID NOT control the entire Philippine Islands(in reality it was close to 60%). If they did, the entire Moro population would of been wiped out and/or converted to Catholics; it was cannon law to convert everyone and Spain did not allow freedom of religion in their territories, well there were some exceptions but very few. Mindanao and Sulu were major hot regions of constant religious conflicts...these areas were never under full control and Spain never felt it priority to completely dominate such regions in timbuktu(prior to the opening of the suez canal). You will never see a Kris, Barong, Kampilan with the tip cut; these were weapons meant for warfare and not farming...and their wide availability(even today) shows how little Spain had in control of southern Philippines. It is mentioned that the ruling Spanish class only made up about 3% of the entire population. Other rural areas were also not controlled by Spanish authorities, this included areas in Christian dominated islands as well. Mountain regions and extreme tribal ethnic groups like the igorots and aetas in Luzon are examples(all were highlanders)...the Pulahan group for instance are categorized under the mountain region, and prospered well near the fall of the Spanish rule in the Philippines. Even today in this era, the Philippine government can not get full control of groups running around in the mountains or rural areas of the Philippines...the Abu Sayyaf and the NPAs are both prime examples of how tough it is to control military factions in their own country. If it is this tough today, imagine how tough it was 100 years ago.

By the way, nice work Miguel! Keep it coming!
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Old 14th April 2009, 04:27 PM   #17
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Quote:
Just out of curiosity (I hope I'm not off-topic), are the majority of non-tourist Talibon made after the fall of the Spanish rule in PI?


I suspect that there was hardly any so called "tourist" blades during the period of Spanish “rule” - because the tourist market and the "tourism industry" was not yet developed. Furthermore, almost every Filipino household probably owned a bladed weapon - pointed or not. And even if a pointed weapon was outlawed, it did not stop anybody (including the lowlanders paying tribute to the colonial government) from owning and keeping one at home (i.e. not brought out in public).

Thus, the likely answer to your question is "No".
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Old 14th April 2009, 07:44 PM   #18
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Thanks guys, just a young novice gettin' his learn on
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Old 15th April 2009, 05:14 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trenchwarfare
The "NO POINT" rule must have been in effect in all of Spains colonial holdings ... Don't know about the Philippines contracts.

Thanks for the comment

Yes, as I understand it was mandated also by Spain then in the Phils. that pointed bolos are not allowed.

And that's why we have bolos like the one below I 'inherited' from Fernando. [Fernando, that's a really very nice Visayan blade. Thanks again!]

But as to how effective that law was, even a casual survey of various Philippine swords will tell one that it wasn't quite followed.
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Old 15th April 2009, 05:32 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dimasalang
One must keep in mind and make note, when Spain ruled the Philippines for +300 years, they DID NOT control the entire Philippine Islands(in reality it was close to 60%). If they did, the entire Moro population would of been wiped out and/or converted to Catholics ...

Thanks for your usual very informative comments!

I learn something new whenever you make those exhaustive comments, you see So keep them coming, too!

I definitely agree that the entire country was not controlled then. Aside from the prolonged armed resistance by some (e.g., by the Moros), some areas were not controlled by the colonizers for the simple reason that they were simply too far flung (e.g., the Cordilleras where the Igorots and other highlanders were staying, and the uplands [e.g., "lumad"] of Mindanao, etc.).

Even in the lowlands and coastal areas (i.e., the areas mostly controlled by the Spaniards), I think the Spanish friars and rulers then told the locals that if they don't want to be under their rule, then all they have to do is to live far enough such that they cannot hear that church bells and that's it -- live and let live. Now I still have to find the source (reference) of that ...

By the way, I found the diagram below from a Filipino Muslim professor's lecture, at the Yuchengco Museum website.

From said diagram it becomes even clearer why the Moros' blades continued to remain sharp and pointy!
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Old 15th April 2009, 02:29 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nonoy Tan
I suspect that there was hardly any so called "tourist" blades during the period of Spanish “rule” - because the tourist market and the "tourism industry" was not yet developed. Furthermore, almost every Filipino household probably owned a bladed weapon - pointed or not. And even if a pointed weapon was outlawed, it did not stop anybody (including the lowlanders paying tribute to the colonial government) from owning and keeping one at home (i.e. not brought out in public).

Thus, the likely answer to your question is "No".

Nonoy, thanks!

If I may add a point or two in support of that, the Leyte-Samar sundang (also known as garab or talibon in some parts of those Visayan islands) is for instance configured that way for a reason.

Like the sagging (i.e., convex) shape of the cutting edge is supposed to split more efficiently a coconut nut

And then the pointy tip was designed to scoop out the copra [dried coconut kernel] efficiently ... like what the tourist in the pic below is trying to learn.

And then the (short) length of the sundang/garab/talibon was deliberate -- that was done so that the coconut farmer need not spread his arms farther apart than necessary, while extracting the copra from the shell.

And so even if pointed bolos were outlawed then, in many instances and for very practical reasons, the prohibition simply couldn't had been followed.
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Old 15th April 2009, 02:33 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KuKulzA28
Thanks guys, just a young novice gettin' his learn on

Thanks for your interest in this topic!

OT: By the way, your avatar is really cool. Would you mind sharing to us what the character means?
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Old 15th April 2009, 06:27 PM   #23
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WOW! I did not know about the Talibon/garab sundang, that's very cool...
It's interesting when people, even historians and martial artists, make blanket statements like "Talibon were only weapons" or "all Filipino weaponry had a duality of purpose - war and work" or "weapons are an extension of the hand" or "all bladed techniques can have hand and stick techniques derived from them"etc.etc. From life-experience it seems thing aren't always so clear-cut


________________________________________OFF TOPIC___________________________________________

Quote:
Originally Posted by migueldiaz
Thanks for your interest in this topic!

OT: By the way, your avatar is really cool. Would you mind sharing to us what the character means?
That's my family-name: Tseng, I am what's known as Huh-lwo, Hoklo, or Hokkien. I have the Chinese character and Aboriginal symbols to show my mixed ancestry. I'm Taiwanese American. Many of the Chinese in Indonesia, Philippines, SE Asia, India, etc. were from Hoklo traders/pirates/settlers/coolies. More than 80% of the Taiwanese Hoklos are estimated to have some amount of aboriginal blood. A Taiwanese Aborigine blade is resting on a skull - we can assume a headhunted skull . The diamond pattern is from the popular Paiwan/Puyuma/Ruaki motifs of the bai-bu-shuh or hundred paces snake.

I have a huge interest in Southern China, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, India, Congo, and Latin America - cultures, history, canoes, climate, weapinry, martial arts, women, food - you name it.

----what does yours mean?

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Old 15th April 2009, 07:45 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KuKulzA28
----what does yours mean?



Miguels is Alibata/Baybayin script. It is old writing from the Philippines that is pre-Spanish. The first book ever published by the Spanish in the Philippines(Doctrina Cristiana in 1593, or Christian Doctrine) was written in Alibata in order to convert the natives. The writing in Miguels avatar looks to be the "La" character...both together I am guessing would be "Lala"...not sure what that means though, maybe his Filipino pet name. hehe Some Filipinos still signed their names in Alibata up until the mid-19th century...so it is not as if it all disappeared when the Spanish took over. The Katipunan also placed the "Ka" alibata symbol in the middle of some of their flags...not to represent "Katipunan" but for "Kalayaan"(independence). Today there are some tribes and places that still use that writing to communicate(Mindoro and Palawan being the two most recognized places). Many Filipinos now are understanding its importance and are embracing it...myself included.
Sorry Miguel, thought I'd help myself to your question.

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Old 15th April 2009, 08:11 PM   #25
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I found an old news reel from 1943 it shows Philippine troops being armed with bolos. It's about 5 minutes into the video.

http://ahivfree.alexanderstreet.com/View/526281
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Old 15th April 2009, 09:06 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LOUIEBLADES
I found an old news reel from 1943 it shows Philippine troops being armed with bolos. It's about 5 minutes into the video.

http://ahivfree.alexanderstreet.com/View/526281



Could somebody put a picture of one bolo like the video? thanks
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Old 15th April 2009, 09:09 PM   #27
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Thanks Dimasalang!

@ LOUIEBLADES:
Oh wow, that's wicked cool, I like how the text follows the video clip...
Interesting how the Filipino soldiers were issued bolos by the US Army...

I bet they would've brought bolos even if they weren't issued them

This reminds me of Crossing the Sulu Seas where an old man relates of how he remembers Moro krismen ambushing Japanese forces. It seems a common theme with the Filipinos, Moros, Gorkhas, Chinese, Taiwanese, etc. to use a big native blade since guns and ammo were low.
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Old 16th April 2009, 01:30 AM   #28
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Hello Miguel,

To me #1 looks like a bat-head "bolo" (usually attributed to Batangas)...

Regards,
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Old 16th April 2009, 01:56 AM   #29
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Hello Miguel,

Quote:
If I may add a point or two in support of that, the Leyte-Samar sundang (also known as garab or talibon in some parts of those Visayan islands) is for instance configured that way for a reason.

Like the sagging (i.e., convex) shape of the cutting edge is supposed to split more efficiently a coconut nut

And then the pointy tip was designed to scoop out the copra [dried coconut kernel] efficiently ... like what the tourist in the pic below is trying to learn.

Well, he's obviously playing with a freshly opened coconut not copra. Else he wouldn't smile that much anymore...

AFAIK, copra is really not that difficult to remove from the shell since most of it is already detached due to the drying process - wouldn't something like a spoon work much better/faster? I somehow have a problem imagining the thin tip of Bill's nice garab being used for working copra! BTW, isn't the copra trade a fairly recent (i.e. colonial) phenomenon? From my travels, ripe coconuts seemed to be of very little interest to any local population - they only utilized young coconuts (or, at least, still fairly soft ones for making coconut cream).


Quote:
And then the (short) length of the sundang/garab/talibon was deliberate -- that was done so that the coconut farmer need not spread his arms farther apart than necessary, while extracting the copra from the shell.

That's definitely too much of a stretch for me...

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Kai
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Old 16th April 2009, 04:50 AM   #30
migueldiaz
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Originally Posted by KuKulzA28
It's interesting when people, even historians and martial artists, make blanket statements like "Talibon were only weapons" or "all Filipino weaponry had a duality of purpose - war and work" or "weapons are an extension of the hand" or "all bladed techniques can have hand and stick techniques derived from them"etc.etc. From life-experience it seems thing aren't always so clear-cut

I definitely agree that more often, things are not clear-cut.

In a spectrum where one extreme is "tool-only" and the other is "weapon-only", I think most ethnic blades would lie somewhere in between.

Occasionally you'll have the kampilan, etc. that's a weapon-only blade. At the moment I cannot think of a (Filipino) tool-only blade but I'm sure there's one.

But as you also said, the vast majority of ethnic blades would lie somewhere in between. And apparently that's true for the Samar-Leyte sundang as well.

Even the sinister-looking northern Luzon head-axe for instance, is used more often as a tool, rather than to smite an enemy, as noted earlier ...

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Originally Posted by KuKulzA28
________________________________________OFF TOPIC___________________________________________

That's my family-name: Tseng, I am what's known as Huh-lwo, Hoklo, or Hokkien. I have the Chinese character and Aboriginal symbols to show my mixed ancestry ... ----what does yours mean?

Thanks for sharing the meaning of the uber-cool avatar of yours!

The script in my avatar harks back to my family history. The characters mean "tamer of the serpent bakunawa, protector of the seas, and rider of the storm". Ok, ok, I just made that up! As Dimasalang explained, it's the ancient Philippine script (and the characters refer to my real name's initials).

And said alibata script can still be found occasionally in old Philippine swords (e.g. below).
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