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Ian 14th June 2021 03:22 AM

Unusual Philippine short sword
5 Attachment(s)
This short sword/long knife is interesting. The blade is well forged, tapering from hilt to tip, and the spine is straight. The blade has a small ricasso (unusual for a Philippine blade) which betrays its origins from a file or rasp, with the typical cross-hatched pattern. The edge is V-ground and remains razor sharp.

The hilt is unusual. It appears to have been cast from a white metal, most likely "white bronze" (definitely not aluminum as seen on some WWII-era knives and later). The hilt likely once had a chain (now missing) from the guard to the pommel to create a D-guard arrangement. The guard (also white metal) is a separate piece that has been brazed to the hilt. The fitting of the blade to the guard and hilt is seamless and expertly done.

The scabbard is polished wood with copper/brass fittings at the throat and toe. The throat has a nice brass belt loop. There is also a nondescript white metal band around the middle of the scabbard that may have been a later replacement.

Overall this is not a piece that came from a village blacksmith. There is some quality cutlery work in the forging and fitting of the blade, and the copper/brass mounts on the scabbard show skill also. The metal hilt is the most unusual aspect of this piece for me. The metal is a non-ferrous alloy (a magnet does not stick to it) and its not aluminum, so that suggests a copper alloy of some sort ("white bronze").

My first thought was that this piece came from Luzon. However, the fluted wooden scabbard is similar to some Moro sundang I have owned, and the copper/brass fittings on the scabbard are consistent with Moro work. There are many skilled Moro panday who are capable of producing this type of blade and fitting it well. However, the hilt motifs are distinctly not Moro.

I know many experts in Philippine swords visit this site, so I would appreciate help in locating where it came from. Also, the time frame in which it was produced. My feeling is that this piece is WWII-era or around that time.

-----Unknown Philippine sword-----

Jim McDougall 14th June 2021 06:03 PM

Hi Ian,
This is a wonderful piece, and most interesting is the way you explain in detail the significance of the elements and how estimations or assessments are arrived at with the weapon.
As a complete novice at these types of weapons, I appreciate those such as yourself who offer some sort of perspective along with the classification.

I posted what I thought might be Philippine sword a number of days ago, and while I appreciate the notice that it is in fact Javanese and the probable classification (in four words)......I am interested in the curious faces, what they mean, any sort of historical or regional detail on these etc.

Your expertise on these weapons is well established here, any chance you might take a peek at it?


Rick 14th June 2021 06:14 PM

The pommel has a Talibon / Garab influence to it.

Battara 15th June 2021 02:55 AM

Yes I agree with Rick, the hilt looks Visayan to me with some modifications. The scabbard does look Moro-ish to me and this would not be shocking since the regions in question are right next to each other. Also we often see a mix of Moro and Visayan influences in pieces from this area.

Ian 15th June 2021 02:59 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi Rick and Jose,

Yes, the pommel does resemble Visayan examples on the swords and knives that you mention. Similar three-lobed pommels are seen also in some Metro Manila, northern and central Luzon pieces. It's possible my sword may come from Cebu, where some of those cast aluminum-hilted knives were made. The decorative style on the hilt certainly resembles some of the decoration on the aluminum-hilted knives.However, the scabbard is not like any other Visayan example I've seen, with the copper/brass fittings at the throat and tip.

In looking at a mix of Moro/Visayan influences, there is a possibility it was made in Zamboanga, which has a tradition of sword and knife making showing blends of Moro and Chavacano influence. The Chavacano have a Visayan heritage.

Thanks for raising a Visayan component.


P.S. Here are some of those aluminum-hilted knives. They often have stamped inscriptions, such as "Philippines" or a year (the earliest I have seen is 1945, and most are shortly after WWII). One of mine has "CEBU" imprinted. The imbedded "dots" are MOP, natural stones or plastic. Note the small ricasso on the blade without a sheath.

Ian 15th June 2021 07:06 AM

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the kind words. Be pleased to add a comment on your sword.


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