Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1780 Iranun pirate
Subject: pirate
Culture: Iranun-Maranao, Samal-Balangingi Moro
Setting: piracy, Southeast Asia mid-18th - late 19thc
Object: swords


* Stone 1934 p101
"BARONG.  The national weapon of the Moros of Sulu, Mindanao and North Borneo.  They have broad, heavy blades about sixteen inches long, nearly three inches wide in the middle and curve to the hilt and point on both edge and back.  Usually they are single-edged, but occasionally have a back edge for about half their length.  They have no guards and the pommels are often elaborate and characteristic.  The more elaborate pommels are on weapons carried largely for show; those intended solely for fighting are simple ....  They are beautifully balanced weapons, a blow from which can easily sever a man's arm.  They are carried in flat wooden scabbards decorated with simple but effective carving."

* van Zonneveld 2001 p31
The barong is the national weapon of the Moros of Sulu, Mindanao (Philippines).  It is also found in north Kalimantan and Sulawesi.  This sword has a short, heavy blade.  The edge and, in a lesser degree, the back are convex.  They meet in a sharp point.  thanks to the blade's size, it is very effective in jungle combat or in places where space is limited.  The blade usually has one sharp side.  Sometimes the back is sharpened until about halfway.  The hilt curves towards the end and often has two points.  It may be plain, without any distinct points or projections.  It may also end in beautifully carved projections, one of which curves towards the blade.  This serves to prevent the sword from slipping out of the hand in combat.  Hilts of the barong are made of wood, horn, ivory, silver, gold or a combination thereof.  They often have a ring around the hilt's end, near the blade, or a sleeve extending halfway up the hilt. The hilts are related to those of the sulu keris.  The barongs with beautifully carved hilts mainly serve as weapons of state, those with plainer hilts are used as battle-weapons.   The barong is carried in a flat, wooden scabbard.  Its opening widens and is often decorated with carving.  A broader part, sometimes carved, often forms the scabbard's foot."


* Cato 1996 p98-99
"The bangkung is a short, single-edged weapon that varies in length from about twenty to twenty-nine inches.
"Bangkungs are most easily identified by the unusual shape of the blade, which is similar to that of the kampilan.  Researchers feel that this blade profile is one of the oldest styles known.  The bangkung and the kampilan also share another characteristic -- both were designed to deliver heavy, hacking-type blows.
​    "Bangkungs were used by the Sulu Moros, including the Yakans.  The sword is not associated with the Muslim Filipinos in Mindanao, although it was occasionally seen in the Southwestern coastal regions.  These bangkungs were undoubtedly introduced by Sulus who, in the course of their travels, brought them across the sea from their homelands.
​    "Although it was an effective sword, the bangkung never enjoyed the widespread popularity of some of the other Moro edged weapons.  It was for this reason that relatively few bangkungs were produced and only a very small number of antiques have survived to the present time." 

Kalis / Kris

* Demetrio 1991 p593 (quoting Majul 1978 p1168)
"The straight kris (called ... sundang by the Iranun) is narrow-bladed and used both for cutting and thrusting.  It is seldom straight in its axis, in order to accommodate a kind of curvature that permits the striking of a drawing blow.  In both [straight and wavy] types of kris the base of the blade widens into a guard and counter guard.  Their handles curve downward and and are held in the hand with guard up."


* Warren 2002 p172 
"The Iranun marines, sometimes including tribal headhunters among their numbers, took no part in sailing the ship, and were there simply to fight and engage the enemy vessel.  They were expected to do so with unwavering courage and tenacity of purpose, attacking with grappling poles, boarding lances, muskets and the dreaded kampilan, a scimitar-like sword."

* Wiley 1996 p119
"The kampilan is a sword of approximately 44 inches in length.  It has a carved hilt, a fork-shaped pommel, and a guard which stylized 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 which widens into a dual-point."  

* Evangelista 1995 p88
"CAMPILAN.  A Malayan sword, originally the weapon of the Dyaks of Borneo.  It has a long, straight, single-edged blade (average length: twenty-eight inches), wider at the point than at the hilt.  The grip is carved from wood.  The weapon is often decorated with tufts of goat hair.
    "The scabbard of the campilan was fashioned of two separate pieces of wood so that when a single lashing was cut, it would fall away from the sword, making it unnecessary to draw the blade." [See Macaraeg 2009 below.]  [references omitted]

* Macaraeg 2009 p47
"At this point we should pause to mention a claim attached to kampilans that is certainly false: That their scabbards were bound with thin lashing to enable a faster draw because the blade would simply cut through the lashing.  A moment's critical reflection reveals that one would still need to apply pressure to the lashings in a direction away from one's intended target, which would retard rather than quicken a draw.  Further, such pressure would need to be applied against a resisting force, and we have no evidence that kampilans were suspended by straps or baldrics (and then, whouldn't the sword need to cut through those too?).  We observe from Japanese iaijutsu that the fastest and most effective way to attack on the draw is simply to unsheathe the blade according to technique specific to that purpose."  [references omitted]

* Demetrio 1991 v2 p591-592 (quoting Majul 1978 p1169)
"Kampilan Favorite Of The Maranao.
The kampilan has a long blade that widens to a truncated distal end.  It is heavy and single-edged.  Kampilan is a cutting weapon used by Iranun, Magindanao and Maranao warriors.  It is especially favored by the latter.  It usually has a huge guard and its handle is often ornamented.  The kampilan has a spikelet at the distal end of the blade.  Its ornamentation, like horsehair at the sides of the handle, etc. denotes rank."

* Cato 1996 p32 
"Kampilans were ... used in the [Maranao] ritual which drew protective spirits from the mountains.  These entities were invoked to protect the lives and crops of the people."

* Warren 2002 p283 
"The kampilan, in the minds of hapless European sailors, was a weapon that represented the ferocity of the Iranun warrior himself. The blade was razor sharp and resilient. In the hands of an Iranun warrior launching a boarding raid on a European ship it had only one purpose -- to kill the enemy. In the confined space of the ship's deck it was an ideal weapon. The vanguard of warriors with kampilan and kris went eye to eye at the crew of a merchantman prone to fight back. They slit their throats to frighten them into submission." 


* Macaraeg 2009 p48
"Otra arma atribuida a los iranun, sin que exista una clara analogía con las de otros piratas, es el hacha denominada panabas o tabas.  El comentario de que era utilizada por los guerreros más viejos o débiles para acabar con los enemigos heridos en la batalla es poco convincente.  Los prahu, como cualquier barco de combate, no podIan permitirse la presencia de tripulantes viejos o débiles ya que esto sería un estorbo.  (Y, en qualquier caso, ¿por qué asignar las armas más pesadas a los marineros más débiles?).  La responsabilidad sería incluso más evidente durante las incursiones que dependIan del sigilo y la velocidad.  Los registros indican que la piratería iranun no parece haberse involucrado en batallas a gran escala en el sentido formal, tal y como podrían ser descritos los ataques piratas chinos sobre Pangasinán en 1572 y Manila en 1574.  En todo caso, los iranun habrían utilizado estas hachas más probablemente para cortar aparejos, como sucede con las hachas que llevan los barcos occidentales contemporáneos."  [references omitted]  

* Demetrio 1991 v2 p596 (quoting Majul 1978 p1169)
"Tabas Sword Used for Beheading.  'Tabas is a heavy curved sword for beheading with a blade that broadens at the distal end.  The double-grip handle is curved and long, serving as counterweight to the long and heavy blade.  The tabas is normally unornamented.  Found among all the Muslims, it is used for executions.  Among the Iranun it was used in battle.  It was expedient in dispatching wounded enemies by warriors who were specially designated for this task.'" 


* Stone 1934 p502
"PIRA.  A kind of Malayan sword with a blade like the old falchion.  It has a long projection from the pommel, Philippines."

* Cato 1996 p

>cf. 1902 Moro datu swords