Last updated
Kampilan moro parts components.jpg
Parts of a Moro kampílan, written in Maguindanao and Maranao languages of Mindanao.
Type Sword
Place of origin Philippines
Service history
In service Ancient barangays, Caboloan, Rajahnate of Cebu, Madja-as, Tondo, Namayan, Maynila, Ma-i, Rajahnate of Butuan, Sultanate of Maguindanao, Sultanates of Lanao, Sultanate of Sulu
Used by Kapampangans, Ilocanos, Tagalogs, Totoon Pangasinan, Visayans, Lumad, Moros (Iranun, Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug), Bajau
Massapprox. 0.85–1.3 kg
Length90–100 cm
Blade lengthapprox. 70 cm

Blade  type Laminated steel blade; tapered, single-edge
Hilt  typeOne or two-handed cruciform, with carved bifurcated pommel; Hardwood, Horn, Bone, Metal (Gold, Silver, Brass)
Scabbard/sheath Rattan or fibre-lashed Wood or Bamboo

The kampilan (Baybayin: ᜃᜋ᜔ᜉᜒᜎᜈ᜔) is a type of single-edged sword, traditionally used by various ethnic groups in the Philippine archipelago. It has a distinct profile, with the tapered blade being much broader and thinner at the point than at its base, sometimes with a protruding spikelet along the flat side of the tip. The design of the pommel varies between ethnic groups, but it usually depicts either a bakunawa (dragon), a buaya (crocodile), a kalaw (hornbill), or a kakatua (cockatoo). [1]


This weapon was featured in the American bladesmithing competition, Forged in Fire (TV series)'s season 4 episode 16. [2]


"Kampilan" is the term most commonly used for the sword in the Tagalog, Ilocano and Visayan languages. It simply means "sword". [3] [4] [5] It is known by other names in other ethnic groups in the Philippines including Kapampangan talibong or talibon (not to be confused with the Visayan talibon); Maranao kifing; Iranun parang kampilan; [6] and Tboli tok and kafilan. [7]


Kampilan are mentioned in ancient Filipino epics, including the Hiligaynon Hinilawod from the Visayas; the Ilocano Biag ni Lam-Ang from Luzon; and the Maranao Darangen of Mindanao. [8] [9] The kampilan also plays a central part in the Maranao and Maguindanao traditional war dance of Sagayan, which depicts a scene from the Darangen. [10]

Unlike other common precolonial Filipino bolo weapons which were based on agricultural implements, the kampilan is specifically made for warfare, used either in small skirmishes or large-scale encounters. [11] According to Philippine historical documents, the kampílan was widely used by chieftains and warriors for battle and as a headhunting sword. The most famous probable use of kampilan in warfare was in the Battle of Mactan, where Antonio Pigafetta described Ferdinand Magellan being wounded on the left leg by a warrior bearing "a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger." [12] [1] [13] [11] In traditional societies of the Tagalog people, it is also used as a form of religious adornment in a dambana. [13] [11]

Physical description

A kampilan with a crocodile pommel shown with the shorter kalis for comparison. The sheaths are also displayed. Kalis Kampilan 2.JPG
A kampilan with a crocodile pommel shown with the shorter kalis for comparison. The sheaths are also displayed.

Among Filipino swords, the most distinguishing characteristic of the kampilan is its huge size. At about 36 to 40 inches (90 to 100 cm) long, it is much larger than other Filipino swords, [13] and is thought to be the longest, [11] though smaller versions (sometimes called the "kampilan bolo") [14] exist. A notable exception would be the panabas , another Philippine longsword, of which unusually large examples used for ceremonial execution purposes could measure up to four feet in length. [15]

The blade is narrow near the hilt and it gradually swells in width into an almost trapezoidal profile at the end. The blades are often laminated with various styles of tip. Kampílan blades often have holes near the tip that are sometimes filled with brass. Rarer still are specimens that have tips exhibiting a kris -like fretwork, while others have engravings down the entire blade. Although the kampílan can be used with one hand, it is primarily a two-handed sword.


The lamination (pattern welding) of the blade of this kampilan is clearly visible. A close-up view of the characteristic spikelet on the blade's tip is also shown. Kampilan moro sword laminated blade.jpg
The lamination (pattern welding) of the blade of this kampílan is clearly visible. A close-up view of the characteristic spikelet on the blade's tip is also shown.

The laminated steel blade of the kampílan is single-edged, and made from Damascus steel pattern welding process [16] [17] and is easily identified by its tapered profile, narrowest near the hilt and gently widening until its truncated point. The blade's spikelet has led to the description of the kampílan in some documents as "dual-tipped" or "double-tipped". [1] [13] [18]

Sheath or scabbard

The scabbard is usually made of cheap wood and is bound with simple rattan or fibre lashings. When the sword needs to be used immediately, the sword bearer will simply strike with the sheathed sword and the blade will cut through the lashings, thereby effecting a quick, tactical strike without the need to unsheathe the sword.

Scabbards are unadorned and are often disposable when going into battle. Some scabbards were also made of bamboo or were made with a handle that allowed half of the scabbard to serve as a small shield.


Detail of the hilts of Moro kampilan, which typically have kalaw (hornbill) pommel designs Kampilan hilts moro philippine swords.jpeg
Detail of the hilts of Moro kampílan, which typically have kalaw (hornbill) pommel designs

The hilt is quite long in order to counterbalance the weight and length of the blade and is made of hardwood. [1] As with the blade, the design of the hilt's profile is relatively consistent from blade to blade. The hilt is sometimes wrapped with rattan to improve the grip. At times the hilt was bound to the hand by a talismanic piece of cloth to prevent slippage. Sometimes a chain mail covering was attached to prevent the hand from injury. Almost all kampílan originally had large metal staples protruding from the cross guard above the grip.

The complete tang of the kampílan disappears into a crossguard, which is often decoratively carved with geometric or flowing patterns. [1] The guard prevents the enemy's weapon from sliding all the way down the blade onto bearer's hand and also prevents the bearer's hand from sliding onto the blade while thrusting.

A Bagobo kampilan from Mindanao Lumad kampilan.jpg
A Bagobo kampilan from Mindanao

The most distinctive design element of the hilt is the pommel. The design of the pommel varies between ethnic groups of the Philippines. In the ethnic groups of Visayas and Luzon, the pommel usually depicts a bakunawa (or naga), a horned dragon-like mythological creature. [1] [11] Among the Muslim Moro people, the pommel usually depicts either a kalaw (hornbill) or a kakatua (cockatoo). Other animals depicted in kampilan pommels include monitor lizards and crocodiles. [13] [19] [20] Among the Lumad people of the interiors of Mindanao, kampilan pommels do not typically depict animals, but is instead a simple curving shape that flares out at the end.

Kampilan hilts are typically made from hardwood, but expensive examples that belonged to datu are covered in silver sheet or are entirely manufactured out of expensive materials such as horn or bone. Like the blade, they may possess small holes at the tips and edges which can have attachments like bells, metal chains, or animal or human hair tassels. Some kampilan hilts, especially among the Lumad, can also be made entirely of brass. [1] [11] [19] [21]

Similar swords

Similar weapons to the kampilan in the Philippines include the bangkung, laring, itak, pirah, and the banyal. [22] [23] [24] Other similar weapons to the kampilan outside of the Philippines include the Dayak mandau of Borneo; [25] the Minahasan santi of northern Sulawesi; and the Sangir pedang bara of the Sangihe Islands. [26]

In Brunei, the officers who bear the royal regalia of the Sultan of Brunei such as the Panglima Agsar who carry the royal weapons of kelasak (shield) and kampilan, whereas the Panglima Raja carry the pemuras (royal gun) and kampilan. [27]

Historical Accounts

The Mindanaos use a weapon quite distinct from that of the Ternatans. It is a campilan or cutlass of one edge, and heavier than the pointless Turkish weapon. It is a very bloody weapon, but, being so heavy, it is a danger for him who handles it, if he is not adroit with it. It has only two forms of use, namely, to wield it by one edge, and to raise it by the other, in order to deal another stroke, its weight allowing time for the spears of the opponents to enter. They do not gird it on, as that would be too much trouble, but carry it on the shoulders, in the fashion of the camarlengos who carry the rapiers on their shoulders in public ceremonies in front of their princes. Besides that weapon the Mindanao uses lance, kris, and shield, as do the other nations. Both these and those have begun to use firearms too much, having acquired that from intercourse with our enemies. They manage all sorts of artillery excellently, and in their fleets all their craft carry their own pieces, with ladle, culverins, esmerils, and other small weapons.

Fr. Francisco Combes, History of Mindanao, Sulu and Adjacent Islands (1667)

Modern Day Ceremonial Uses

The No. 1 graduating cadet of the Philippine National Police Academy will receive the Presidential Kampilan as a recognition of his achievement for excelling in all aspects of the 4-year cadetship training, the No. 2 graduate will also receive the Vice Presidential Kampilan as recognition for the 2nd best performing cadet of the graduating batch.

See also


Related Research Articles

A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.

Bolo knife Knife or sword

A bolo is a large cutting tool of Filipino origin similar to the machete. It is used particularly in the Philippines, the jungles of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as in the sugar fields of Cuba.

Maranao people Ethnic group

The Maranao people, also spelled Meranao, Maranaw, and Mëranaw, is the term used by the Philippine government to refer to the southern indigenous people who are the "people of the lake", a predominantly-Muslim Lanao province region of the Philippine island of Mindanao. They are known for their artwork, weaving, wood, plastic and metal crafts and epic literature, the Darangen. They are ethnically and culturally closely related to the Iranun, and Maguindanao, all three groups being denoted as speaking Danao languages and giving name to the island of Mindanao.


Okir or okil is the term for rectilinear and curvilinear plant-based designs and folk motifs that can be usually found among the Moro and Lumad people of the Southern Philippines, as well as parts of Sabah. It is particularly associated with the artwork of the Maranao and Sama (Badjao) tribes, although it can also be found to a lesser extent among the Maguindanao, Iranun, Tausug, Yakan, and Lumad groups. The design elements vary among these ethnic groups, with the greatest refinement being found among the Maranao.

Seax Bladed weapon

Seax is an Old English word for "knife". In modern archaeology, the term seax is used specifically for a type of small sword, knife or dagger typical of the Germanic peoples of the Migration period and the Early Middle Ages, especially the Saxons, whose name derives from the weapon. These vary considerably in size, but are mostly all-purpose tools and weapons, often carried by women as well as men.


The shashka or shasqua, is a kind of sabre; single-edged, single-handed, and guardless backsword. In appearance, the shashka is midway between a typically curved sabre and a straight sword. It has a slightly curved blade, and can be effective for both cutting and thrusting.

Kalis Sword

A kalis is a type of double-edged Filipino sword, often with a "wavy" section, similar to a keris. Just like the keris, the kalis's double-edged blade can be used for both cutting and thrusting; except that the kalis is much larger than most keris, making it a sword rather than a dagger.

Dha (sword) Burmese knife

Dha is the Burmese word for "knife" similar term to daab or darb in Thai language for a single edge sword. The term dha is conventionally used to refer to a wide variety of knives and swords used by many people across Southeast Asia, especially present-day Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Yunnan, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Swords made of iron appear from the Early Iron Age, but do not become widespread before the 8th century BC.


Sagayan is a Philippine war dance performed by both the Maguindanao and Maranao depicting in dramatic fashion the steps their hero, Prince Bantugan, took upon wearing his armaments, the war he fought in and his subsequent victory afterwards. Performers, depicting fierce warriors would carry shields with shell noisemakers in one hand and double-bladed sword in the other attempting rolling movements to defend their master.

Wallace Sword Sword supposedly owned by William Wallace

The Wallace Sword is an antique two-handed sword purported to have belonged to William Wallace (1270–1305), a Scottish knight who led a resistance to the English occupation of Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence. It is said to have been used by William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and the Battle of Falkirk (1298).

Barong (sword) Sword or knife

The barong is a thick, leaf-shaped, single-edged blade sword. It is a weapon used by Muslim Filipino ethnolinguistic groups like the Tausug, Sama-Bajau, or Yakan in the Southern Philippines.


The gunong is a knife from Mindanao and the Visayas islands of the Philippines. In ancient past, it was called bunong by the Tagalog people. It is essentially a diminutive form of the larger kalis or kris. The gunong serves both as a utility knife and as a thrusting weapon used for close quarter fighting—usually as a last defense. It is most often associated with the Maranao, among whom the gunong was traditionally carried by both sexes, although it exists in other cultures throughout Mindanao and the Visayas. The weapon is generally tucked into the back of a waist sash.

Panabas Sword

The panabas, also known as nawi, is a large, forward-curved sword or battle axe used by certain ethnic groups in the southern Philippines. It can range in size from 2 to 4 feet and can be held with one or both hands, delivering a deep, meat cleaver-like cut. In its heyday, it was used as a combat weapon, as an execution tool, and as a display of power. Occasional use as an agricultural and butchering tool has also been noted.

Dahong palay Sword

The Dahong Palay, literally "rice leaf" in Tagalog, is a single-edged sword from the Philippines, specifically the Southern Tagalog provinces of Batangas and Mindoro. The sword's name could either be a reference to the similarity of its shape to the leaves of rice or to local green "dahong palay" snakes, purported to be extremely venomous. The snake is probably the green specimen of the Philippine Pit Viper, Trimeresurus flavomaculatus, though it is sometimes identified as various relatively harmless green snakes, like vine snakes. The dahong palay was originally used as a farmer's tool, for clearing thick grass growths. However, during the Philippine revolution of 1896, farmers from Batangas soon came to favor it for its slashing and thrusting "feel".

Kastane Sword

Kastane is a short traditional ceremonial/decorative single-edged Sri Lankan sword.

The Moplah sword is a sword used by the Muslim population in the Malabar Coast in southwestern India.

Bangkung Sword

The bangkung or bangkon, is a short sword originating in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines. The bangkung was used primarily by the Moro people of the Sulu and is not associated with Moros in other areas such as Mindanao, although it is sometimes found in coastal regions. The bangkung is a slashing weapon, meant to deliver hacking type blows. While the bangkung is a very effective sword, it was not popular unlike the panabas and the pirah and for this reason it is one of the most rarely found Moro edged weapons. Few were produced and even fewer survive.

Pirah Knife or sword

Pirah or pira is a type of Philippine bolo sword or knife characterized by a heavy blade and a wide tip. It superficially resembles a falchion but is much heavier. It is the traditional weapon favored by the Yakan people of Basilan Island. It usually features a kakatua ("cockatoo") hilt, which among the Yakan is distinctively elongated to function as arm support. Among Cebuano people and other Visayans, a similar sword is also known as the pira, but differs in that it has an acutely pointed tip. Like other bolos, pirah were commonly used as farm implements, in addition to being used in combat.

The banyal, is a short sword originating in the Moro people of Mindanao in the Philippines. It has an unusual concave shape on the blade's top part, which is very similar to the bangkung in general profile. But it is smaller with a different pommel style. The blade is thick, weighted at the front for chopping attacks and had a single edge.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Kampilan". Malay World Edged Weapons. Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  2. "The Kampilan". History. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  3. William Henry Scott (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN   978-9715501354.
  4. "Kampilan". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  5. Rubino, Carl Ralph Galvez (2000). Ilocano Dictionary and Grammar: Ilocano-English, English-Ilocano. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN   9780824820886.
  6. Mamitua Saber, Dionisio G. Orellana (1977). Comparative Notes On Museum Exhibits In Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Macao, And The Philippines: A Report To The Ford Foundation On Travelling Symposium For Southeast Asia Museum Development, April-May, 1971. Aga Khan Museum, Mindanao State University. ASIN   B0007BP4DA.
  7. Casiño, Eric S. (2000). Mindanao Statecraft and Ecology: Moros, Lumads, and Settlers Across the Lowland-highland Continuum. Notre Dame University. p. 226. ISBN   9789715553544.
  8. Milligan, Jeffrey Ayala (2000). "Rethinking the Ideal of the Educated Person: An Alternative from the Maranao-Filipino Oral Epic Darangen". Journal of Thought. 35 (3): 67–79. JSTOR   42589635.
  9. Panalondong, Bulkhia (2018). Kampilan: Cultural and Historical Significance to the Mëranaw (Thesis). Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology.
  10. "Sagayan: The Dance of the Maguindanaoan". ChoosePhilippines. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2009-01-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. Antonio Pigafetta. MS. ca. 1525, of events of 1519-1522 (1906). "Primo viaggio intorno al mondo". In Emma Helen Blair & James Alexander Robertson (ed.). The Philippine Islands, 1493-1803; explorations by early navigators, descriptions of the islands and their peoples, their history and records of the Catholic missions, as related in contemporaneous books and manuscripts, showing the political, economic, commercial and religious conditions of those islands from their earliest relations with European nations to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Arthur H. Clark Co. p. 161.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "Kampilan | Traditional Filipino Weapons".
  14. "Kampilan Bolo | Traditional Filipino Weapons".
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-11. Retrieved 2014-10-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. Maryon, Herbert (February 1960). "Pattern-Welding and Damascening of Sword-Blades—Part 1: Pattern-Welding". Studies in Conservation. 5 (1): 25–37. doi:10.2307/1505063. JSTOR   1505063.
  17. Maryon, Herbert (May 1960). "Pattern-Welding and Damascening of Sword-Blades—Part 2: The Damascene Process". Studies in Conservation. 5 (2): 52–60. doi:10.2307/1504953. JSTOR   1504953.
  18. Raiders of the Sulu Sea (Documentary). Oakfilms3, History Channel Asia. Retrieved 2009-02-08.[ permanent dead link ]
  19. 1 2 "History of Steel in Eastern Asia". Macao Museum of Art. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  20. "Mindanao Kampilan Machete Sword". Michael Backman Lrd. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  21. "Complete T'Boli Kampilan sword from Mindanao, Southern Philippines". Ashoka Arts. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  22. Cato, Robert (1996). Moro Swords. Graham Brash. p. 98. ISBN   9789812180599 . Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  23. Atkinson, David J. "Banyal". Atkinson Collection: Swords and Knives. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  24. Lawrence, Marc (2009). "Filipino Weapons from A to Z" (PDF). Filipino Martial Arts Digest. Stephen K. Dowd.
  25. Bernard Dorléans (2006). Orang Indonesia Dan Orang Prancis: Dari Abad XVI Sampai Dengan Abad XX. Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia. ISBN   978-979-9100-50-4.
  26. "Pedang Bara Sangihe, Senjata Tradisional Sulawesi Utara". Indonesia Kaya. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  27. Siti Norkhalbi Haji Wahsalfelah (2007). Textiles and Identity in Brunei Darussalam. White Lotus Press. ISBN   978-974-480-094-7.