Kampilan – Story of The Filipino Legendary Sword

April 21, 2018

Kampilan - The Filipino Legendary SwordOne must understand and study the various blades of any culture to understand what truly lies within its heart and soul. The Philippines archipelago has been home to a lot of legendary and fierce warriors for hundreds of years. This is why we feel so intrigued to examine and study the mighty arms they put their faith in. One sword, one blade and one strike set the difference between life and death. One swing could set a warrior on a proud path of being carried on shoulders or could send him directly to his coffin.

The Kampilan is a mighty sword that is so distinctive from a lot of blades. It has always had a special place in the Filipino history. Forged with pride, this legendary sword is said to be the one that slayed Magellan. Being large, strong and deadly, it still remains to be a warrior’s favorite.

The right weapon in the right hands can definitely change the fate of people and nations. Learn about all the secrets that the Kampilan has to reveal.

The History of Kampilan

The kampilan was described in the Boxer Codex

The kampilan was described in the Boxer Codex which is used among warriors and the Maharlika caste. Source: Wikipedia

Arnis enthusiasts and lovers understand that there is more that lies in weapons than what the eyes can see. A strong blade gives the carrier the needed energy driven from the ancestors who put their faith and beliefs in a similar sword.

The Kampilan was mentioned in several early Filipino epics like Hinilawod. This is an epic poem. With 29,000 verses, you will definitely come across the Kampilan more than once. The sword was very popular among the pre-Hispanic tribes with its unique design and shape. Today you can find the Kampilan featured in a lot of ancient art and tradition displays.

The Kampilan was mentioned in several early Filipino epics like Hinilawod. This is an epic poem. With 29,000 verses, you will definitely come across the Kampilan more than once. The sword was very popular among the pre-Hispanic tribes with its unique design and shape. Today you can find the Kampilan featured in a lot of ancient art and tradition displays.

Rumor has it that either Magellan or one of his officers was caught with one of the wives of the legendary hero Lapu Lapu. The popular chieftain immediately used his deadly Kampilan to neutralize the Spanish man. The Spanish forces then tried to retrieve the body of the deceased, with no luck. This set the first spark to the unsuccessful invasion of Mactan and the famous battle which the Filipinos won on the shore. The Kampilan was sure to send many Spaniards to their fate on that day, carving its name with letters of glory in history books and folk tales to this day.

Kampilan in Battle of Mactan

A depiction of the Battle of Mactan in the Magellan shrine. Source: Wikipedia

Getting to Know the Kampilan

The first thing that sets the Kampilan apart from other blades is its huge size. It does look like a scimitar, but it is a lot larger and more deadly. It measures 90 to 100 cm in length which is by far longer than most of the available weapons. The blade features a unique design that is rather narrow near the hilt and starts to widen until it reaches a trapezoid shape towards the edge. The swords are then laminated with various styles of the tip, making this the best weapon to decapitate an opponent in one swing.

Kampilan's Laminated Blade

The lamination (pattern welding) of the blade of this kampílan is clearly visible. Source: Wikipedia

The Kampilan is a versatile deadly weapon that can be used by the two hands. There were times when warriors would tie the hilt to the hand to prevent slippage during battle. Fighters would also cover their hands in chains to avoid injury. Most Kampilan blades had handles that were made of hardwood. However, some of the traditional more expensive models used bones or ivory.

Understanding the Details

Parts of the kampilan

Parts of the kampilan. Source: Wikipedia

Blade

The single edged laminated steel blade of the Kampilan is made of steel. Because of the unique widened tip of the blade, many warriors and weapons enthusiasts have described it as having a dual tip.

Sheath

Most traditional warriors didn’t care that much for a sheath. In fact, they deliberately used cheap materials to make the sheath. Cheap wood and some rattan were enough to carry the blade in place. When the warrior needed to have his sword, he would quickly cut through the fragile sheath. This would reveal a deadly weapon without wasting a single moment in unsheathing the sword. This is why scabbards and sheaths were often disposable and usually abandoned on the battle field.

Most traditional warriors didn’t care that much for a sheath. In fact, they deliberately used cheap materials to make the sheath. Cheap wood and some rattan were enough to carry the blade in place. When the warrior needed to have his sword, he would quickly cut through the fragile sheath. This would reveal a deadly weapon without wasting a single moment in unsheathing the sword. This is why scabbards and sheaths were often disposable and usually abandoned on the battle field.

Kampilan Moro Sword With Sheath and Rattan Hilt

Kampilan Moro Sword With Sheath and Rattan Hilt. Source: Wikipedia

Hilt

The hilt of the Kampilan is rather long compared to other arms. This is necessary to support the long and heavy blade. It usually features a wide cross guard that would protect the hand of the bearer from slipping while using this heavy and deadly sword. It would also protect the bearer’s hand from being hit by the opponent’s weapon.

What is really interesting about this wonderful blade hilt is the pommel. This pommel usually takes the shape of a creature’s wide open mouth. The animal featured in the pommel differs from one region to another, as each has its own cultural significance.

Some pommels would feature real deadly and scary animals like crocodiles and monitor lizards. They usually represent how scary and strong the weapon is. This strength is magically transferred to the bearer in combat. Some pommels feature mythical and legendary creatures like the bakunawa and nāga. In traditional Filipino mythology, the bakunawa is a mighty dragon or sea serpent. The ancients strongly believe that it was the reason behind the eclipses.

Warriors believed in carving the bakunawa on the pommels of their swords to gain some of the powers of the mighty legendary creature. The nāga is another legendary mythical deity that takes the form of a gigantic snake. Again, it was believed that such a presence would bestow power and strength over warriors when they are in combat. Sometimes warriors would add tassels of human hair or animal hair to their blades. These tassels were merely for decoration and gave their weapons a distinctive look.

Kampilan's Hilt Pommel

Some Kampilan's Hilts feature mythical and legendary creatures like the bakunawa and nāga

The Kampilan has a glorious history in Pre-Hispanic Philippines as it was used in various battles and fights. It was the most distinctive blade used for headhunting. This is why the sword was usually carried by the strongest warriors who stood on the first lines of defense. It is no surprise that this blade was so feared because one single well studied swing could chop two heads off in one strike.

The magic of the Kampilan still lives on. Today you can find a lot of swords that have been carved old school if you are looking for the real deal. This sword is not for the faint of heart. It is only destined to those who know how to carry it with pride.

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