Penn Museum

A Collection of Philippine Arms and Armor In the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

By Mark V. Wiley

Exhibits of arms and armour in U.S. museums usually focus on European medieval collections, and when one is presented on Asian weapons it usually focuses on those of Japan. Even rarer are exhibits of Southeast Asian weapons, and rarer still are those of the Philippines in particular.

However, some U.S. museums do have extensive collections of Southeast Asian weapons, including those from the Philippines. One such museum is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, located in Philadelphia. Although none of these materials are currently on display, the museum has in its storerooms nearly 1,000 martial artifacts from the Philippines, including swords, knives, spears, shields, helmets, and armour.

The museum building that houses these collections is an architectural masterpiece. The rotunda alone is a triumph of design: soaring twenty-seven meters over the grand paintings and sculptures of the Chinese gallery, it is one of the highest unsupported masonry domes in the United States. Noted architect Wilson Eyre, Jr. designed the museum in the 1890's in the North Italian Renaissance style, and the museums’ eclectic decorative elements reflect the diverse cultures exhibited within. It is a lasting monument to the global vision that sent exhibitions to the far corners of the earth in the late nineteenth century.

A great number of  objects in the Musuem were acquired through the museum's own field research; more than three hundred expeditions were been sent out over the past one hundred years. However, the museum did not conduct its own fieldwork in the Philippines.

The Philippine arms and armor in its collections were acquired as purchases or gifts from ethnographic collectors and from men who served in the Philippines during and after the Spanish-American War and in World War II.

Slashing and Thrusting Weapons

Historically, the ancient Islamic martial arts of the southern Philippines were taught and structured around the use of slashing and thrusting weapons. These weapons were often coated with various poisons prior to engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Moreover, Scott (1994:148) notes that "the fiction that the metal itself had been rendered poisonous by some arcane alchemy no doubt enhanced its market value." Slashing and thrusting weapons were brought to the Philippines by way of Malaysia and Indonesia.

In fact, the kampilan, a heavy dual-pointed sword, and the barong, a leaf-shaped sword, were originally weapons of the Sea Dayak people of north Borneo. Both swords have since been adopted as national weapons by the Philippine Moro of Sulu and Mindanao. The Bornean Sea Dayaks believe that Toh, a powerful ghost soul, resides in the heads of man. In times past, acquiring an enemy's head in combat through decapitation was a symbolic act of bravery, reconciliation, and revenge. However, once taken, Coe et al. (1993) note that the head "was treated with respect, cared for, and even fed."

Because of its size and weight, the kampilan was the preferred weapon for head hunting. The kampilan has a carved hilt, a fork shaped pommel, and a guard that stylizes the cavernous jaws of a crocodile. Kampilan are generally decorated with either red or black dyed tufts of hair. The blade is long and straight with a single edge that widens to a dual point. Kampilan are sheathed in breakaway scabbards consisting of two pieces of wood shaped to fit the contour of the blade and fastened at two points with string or vine. This unique scabbard construction affords the warrior the ability to draw his sword and slash his opponent in one motion; at the initiation of a slashing motion, the string is severed, and the scabbard falls apart, releasing the sword.

The University Museum's collection of kampilan is impressive. Shown in Figure 1 is a sample of six from Mindanao, southern Philippines (described here from left to right). The first kampilan shown with scabbard (#41 34 23 a/b) runs 99.8 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 74.2 em and a scabbard length of 73.5 em. The second kampilan shown with scabbard (#L 192 26 a/b) runs 106.3 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 79.6 em and a scabbard length of 82.5 em. The third kampilan with scabbard (#L 192 28 a/b) runs 98 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 71.5 em and a scabbard length of 78.2 em.

It is interesting to note that the Philippine Constabulary confiscated both the second and third kampilan from the Moro of Lake Lanao, Mindanao. They were later collected by Lt. Col. Arthur Parker Hitchens and lent to the museum by Mrs. Hitchens. The fourth kampilan (#43 13 6) runs 96 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 71.5 em. This sword was a gift to the museum from Mrs. Robert Ehrman in memory of her father, Major C. L. Beckhurts. The fifth kampilan (#16132) runs 86.5 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 62 em. Interestingly, this kampilan was pur chased in Spain by Stewart Culin in 1892 and deposited in the museum by C. Howard Colket in 1898. The sixth kampilan (#54 18 2) runs 83.5 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 67.5 em. It was a gift to the museum from F. Lieber. Note that the pommel of this kampilan is different from the others. It is likely that the original handle had either broken, rotted, or was never made, and that the sword was fitted with a generic pommel by the collector or for a tourist.


The leaf shaped barong is traditionally an indispensable part of Moro dress. Barong are carried in flat wooden scabbards decorated with elegant carvings, tucked in the front of the sarong (waist cloth). Barong were often an accompaniment of the Moro when engaging in the religious rite of jura mentado as enjoined in the Koran. Winderbaum (1977:23) notes that barong were often etched with the following Arabic slogans: "There is no god but Allah" and "This barong has killed a score of enemies and must not be drawn from the scabbard except with intent to kill." Barong often range from 40.5 to 45.5 em in length and have simple pommels for fighting and elaborately stylized ones for ceremonial purposes. Whether simple or elaborate, the barong's handle is styled after the kakatua (cockatoo beak), which prevents it from accidentally slipping out of its wielder's bloody hand during combat. The slashing and chopping capabilities of the barong are difficult to match. Barong are the favored weapons for close quarter combat among Tausug, Samal, and Yakan warriors of the southern Philippines.

The University Museum's collection of barong is also quite impressive. Shown in Figure 2 is a sample of four barong from Mindanao (described here from top to bottom). The first barong shown with scabbard (#L-192-5 a/b) runs 48.5 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 34.5 em and a scabbard length of 43.5 em. This barong is from the Moro of Jolo Island, Sulu Archipelago. It was collected by Lt. Col. Arthur Parker Hitchens and lent to the museum by Mrs. Hitchens. Of special interest here is the German silver band found over the lower half of its wooden grip. The second barong with scabbard (#42-30-422 a/b) runs 57.4 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 37.3 em and a scabbard length of 40.3 em. This barong is from the Moro of Tawitawi, was collected by Casper W. Whitney and donated to the museum by Mrs. Morgan Wing. Of special interest here is the impression of a Chinese character just above the pommel on the-f acing side of the blade. The third barong shown with scabbard (#41-34-17 a /b) runs 63 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 40.3 em and a scabbard length of 42.5 em. The fourth barong (#54-18-21) runs 68 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 54 em.


Perhaps the most common sword found throughout Mindanao and Sulu is the kris. Traditionally, the kris is the great distinguishing ornament of all Malays. A symbol of royalty and power. Although kris are to be found in the Visayas, Scott (1994) notes that these are inferior to those from Mindanao and Sulu, which are less esteemed than imports from Makassar and Borneo. Like the barong, the kris is most extensively used by the Tausug, Samal, and Yakan tribes. The origin of the kris is shrouded in mystery and has long been a matter of dispute among arms historians. One early theory posits that it derived from the buntot pagi, or stingray's tail. Some believe it was developed in the third century B.C. as a Hindu religious weapon with mystical powers. Others feel it has a Muslim background, as suggested by similar blades found in the Middle East, Indonesia, and Malaysia today. Still others assert that its design originates from the shape of the mythical naga (serpent or dragon). Kris blades are forged from finely tempered steel of different grades, giving it the appearance of the revered Damascus blades. This forging method produces a blade with dark and light wavy lines called pamor (pattern).

While ranging in length from 48 to 63.5 centimeters, kris are always double-edged. The blades are either completely straight (sundang), completely wavy (kiwo-kiwo or seko), or a combination of wavy at the bottom and straight at the top (ranti). A kris's shape and number of waves are significant, as they indicate its ethnic or regional origin. The pommels, made from such materials as hardwood, bone, antler, or shell, are stylized into a "horse-hoof" design known as kalaw-kalaw. Kris scabbards are called taguban. The University Museum has an extensive collection of kris. Shown in Figure 3 is a sample of three kris (described here from top to bottom). The first kris shown with scabbard (#P1787 a/b) runs 58.5 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 48.3 em and a scabbard length of 52 em. It is from the Siassi Moro of Jolo Island, Sulu Archipelago, and was collected by By Mrs. Helen Landell, who donated it to the museum in 1905.

The second kris with scabbard (#L-192-13 a/b) runs 71 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 60 em and a scabbard length of 64 em. It is from the Mora of Cotabato, Mindanao; Datu (chief) Piang presented it to Col. Arthur Parker Hitchens on May 29, 1928, and Mrs. Hitchens donated it to the museum. The third kris with scabbard (#29-58-31 a/b) runs 78 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 66.5 em and a scabbard length of 68 em. While Mindanao Mora used this sword, it was apparently brought to the Philippines from the Malay Archipelago.

Perhaps the most basic and widely used sword in the Philippines is the long agricultural blade known as the bolo. Primarily a working tool, the bolo became famous during the Spanish-American War, when Filipino service­ men formed bolo battalions-troops armed with regulation firearms and bolo. The blades are generally rough or unfinished since they are made primarily for agricultural use.

With the bolo’s wide use, it is no wonder that the University Museum has a large number in its collection. Shown in Figure 4 is a sample of two bolo (described here from top to bottom). The first bolo shown with scab­ ard (#42-30-425 a/b) is from Iloilo, Luzon, and runs 45 em from pom­ mel to point, with a blade length of 33.2 em and a scabbard length of 37.5 em. The second bolo with scabbard (#42-30-392 a/b) runs 62.5 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 49.6 em and a scabbard length of 52.4 em. Both swords were collected by Casper W. Whitney and donated to the museum by Mrs. Morgan Wing.

Another Malay slashing and thrusting weapon adopted by the Philippine Moro of Mindanao for combat is the klewang. This sword has a straight single-edged blade that generally widens toward its tip. The museum has only a few of these swords in its collection. Shown in Figure 5 are two klewang (described from left to right). The first kle­ wang (#54-18-13) ru11s 64.5 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 49.5 em, and was donated to the museum by F. Lieber. The second klewang (#29-9-21) runs 59 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 45.5 em. This sword was collected by Col. Frank A. Edwards around 1900 and donated to the museum by Richard E. Norton in 1929.

While the aforementioned weapons have both slashing and thrusting capabilities, there are also a few weapons used solely for chopping. For example, the panabas has a wide metal chopping head that appears to be a cross between a sword blade and an ax head. A jungle knife often used for executions, the pamibas is popular in the Malabang, Cotabato, and Labuan districts of Mindanao.

The panabas blade is widest near the point and bends backward toward the hilt. This chop­ per became a popular weapon for jungle warfare during World War II and is perhaps a permutation of the Bornean jungle knife, parang latok. The University Museum has a small collection of panabas. Shown in Figure 6 are two panabas from Mindanao, southern Philippines (described here from top to bottom).

The first panabas (#16130) runs 85.5 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 53.5 em. Interestingly, it was purchased in Madrid, Spain by Stewart Culin in 1892, and deposit· ed in the museum by C. Howard Colket in 1893. The second panabas (#57-26-120) runs 73.5 em from pommel to point, with a blade length of 41 em. It belonged to Charles M. Small, a former military hospital steward who donated it to the museum on February 27, 1957.

PHILIPPINE SHIELDS AND ARMOR

For protection from an enemy's weapon, the Filipino warrior used various shields and, to a lesser extent, body armor. In general, the northern tribes' rectangular shields are characterized by five elongated points, two projecting down from the bottom and three up from the top. Northern shields are elaborate while southern ones are less so, with two or fewer projections, and they are often round or oval with no projections. With regard to the shields the Filipinos used during the Spanish occupation in the seventeenth century, Casino (1982:210) notes: "The fighting men carried shields called taming, which were large and circular; they were common in Sulu, Basilan, and among the coast dwellers in Western Mindanao. The highlanders used elongated ones called kalasag." The taming is generally round and made of either woven ratan (sawali) or wood. The taming's origin is uncertain. Goquingco (1980) postulated that it may have come from the tagbanwa shield of the Muslim Maranao and might be of Chinese origin; whereas Scott (1994) suggests that it may have been copied from those of the Moluccans or Spaniards.

The University Museum has only a few taming shields in its collection. Shown in Figure 7 is a wooden taming (#P 2976 B) with a thin piece of metal wrapped around its edge and a diameter of 86 em. It is from the Bagobo tribe of Davao, Mindanao. The museum purchased it from the collectors, Misses Elizabeth H. and Sarah S. Metcalf, in 1914. A kalasag is made of fibrous wood reinforced with woven rattan and can fend off most swords. However, its primary function was to protect its bearer from spears and arrows. Since the shield's material was fibrous, it was able to enmesh the enemies spear, thus preventing him from retrieving it. Kalasag can be found in any number of different sizes, although they are always nearly rectangular The University Museum has a nice variety of kalasag from both the northern and southern Philippines. Shown here are three kalasag, two from Luzon and one from Mindanao. Figure 8 is a kalasag (#50-49-64) of the Kalinga tribe of northern Luzon. It has a length of 129 em -and a width of 29 em. The shield's two prongs at the bottom allowed its bearer to stand placing his lead leg between the prongs and be guarded from mid­ thigh to head. The prongs at the top allowed him to view the enemy, and the tapered shape allowed him to throw his spear without having to move his shield from its protective position. Figure 9 shows a child's kalasag (#5049-78) of the Tuit (Apayao) tribe of northern Luzon. It has a length of 90 em and a width of 39 em. Shown in Figure 10 is a kalasag (#P2977 a) of the Bagobo tribe of Davao, Mindanao. It has a length of 102 em and a width of 54.5 em.

The museum purchased these shields from the collectors, Elizabeth H. and- Sarah S. Metcalf, in 1914. Although the native Filipino warriors (mandiriima) did not have European chain-mail armor, they did have a quilted equivalent called barote. Made of abaca cord woven tightly into braids, barote body armor is like modern-day rip· stop nylon in that, when punctured, it will not tear due to its intricately woven pattern. The more solid body armor, possibly fashioned after the Spanish design, is pakil. Scott notes that in the Visayas, pakil was made of bark, bamboo, or kamagong (a hard wood), while in Mindanao it was made of carabao horn or elephant hide and known as baluti. Considering the scarcity of body armor that was used by Filipinos in battle, it is fortunate that the University Museum has one example in their collection. Shown in Figure 11 is pakil armor (#81,4,1) with a length of 67 em and a width of 48 em. It is believed to have been made by Moro in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century.

The chain mail, silver locks, and ornamentation are believed to have been taken from Spanish armor and reworked into the piece. Mrs. F. Gardner Cox donated this pakil to the museum on April 10, 1981. In addition to shields and breastplates, Filipino warriors of Luzon also wore wooden helmets known as kupya, although they do not appear to have been wide­ ly used. Shown in Figure 12 are two kupya displayed to show their inside and outside construction. The helmet ·on the left (#50-49-262) is 18 em wide with a depth or height of 12 em. The helmet on the right (#50-49-263) is 19.7 em wide with a depth or height of 11 em. These kupya are from the Bontoc of Luzon.


AFTERWORD I feel fortunate to have been granted permission to study the Philippine arms and armor collection in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. It is hoped that this preliminary review of their collections will foster an interest in this relatively unexplored field. Scholars pursuing research in the area of Philippine arms and armor may contact the museum for further information.


REFERENCES CASINO, E. (1982). The Philippines: Lands and People, A Cultural Geography. Philippines: Grolier International, Inc. CoE, M., ET AL. (1993).
Swords and Hilt Weapons. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc. GOQUINGCO, L. (1980). The Dances of The Emerald Isles. Quezon City, Philippines: Ben-Lor Publishers. HORNE, L. (Ed.). (1985). Introduction to The University Museum. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. SCOTT, W. (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth-century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City, Philippines: Ataneo de Manila University Press. SZANTON, D. (1973). “Art in Sulu, A Survey.” Sulu Studies, 2, pp. 2-69. WILEY, MV. (1997). Filipino Martial Culture. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co. WINDERBAUM, L. (1977). The Martial Arts Encyclopedia. Washington, D.C.: lnscape About the Author Mark V. Wiley

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