|Place of origin||Philippines|
|Length||24–48 in (61–122 cm)|
|Blade type||Single-edged, curved bladed, blunt or pointed tipped|
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.
The sword's name is a shortening of the word "pang-tabas", which means "chopping tool". As such, its etymological origins are the root word tabas ("to chop off") and the prefix pang ("used for").
The panabas is one of many bladed weapons portrayed in the "Weapons of Moroland" plaque that has become a common souvenir item and pop culture icon in the Philippines.
Easily one of the most recognizable among Filipino blade weapons, the panabas is distinguished by its size and its unique, forward-curving profile. At 2 to 4 feet, it is among the largest of Filipino swords, with only some Kampilan specimens being longer. The forward-curved shape of its blade makes it unique not only in terms of its appearance, but in terms of handling as well. In terms of shape, similarities have been noted between the panabas and the Nepalese kukri knife, although the kukri is much smaller. Its hilt is perhaps the longest among Filipino swords, both in terms of overall length, and in terms of proportion relative to the blade.
Seen from the side, the panabas's laminated steel blade is single-edged, is narrowest near the hilt, and gets dramatically thicker near the tip, where the edge side of the weapon curves forward.
Because the panabas is primarily used in a chopping rather than thrusting motion, the shape of the actual tip varies greatly, with some specimens coming to a blunt tip, some pointed in the manner of other Filipino swords such as the Dahong Palay, and some taking on a square or diamond shape, with the furthest tip of the diamond, on the blunt back of the sword, serving as an elementary spike. There are rare panabas specimens that have an 'S'-shaped blade sharpened partially along the backside, such that the specimen is double edged at the tip.
While design work on the panabas's blade is relatively rare, among the most common examples of decorative design elements take the form of talismanic 'X' along the spine.
Observed cross-sectionally, the blade is also thicker at its base, with a typical example being about 2 cm (0.79 in) thick - so designed in order to withstand the massive forces that the panabas both deals out and absorbs with every blow.
The panabas' hilt, made of hardwood such as narra and often wrapped in braided rattan, is perhaps the longest among Filipino swords, both in terms of overall length, and in terms of proportion relative to the blade. The hilts of some specimens are wrapped in metal bands rather than rattan.
Panabas scabbards were made of plain wood and are now extremely rare - according to accounts, largely because warriors would frequently discard them prior to a battle. Such scabbards invariably consist of two pieces of wood which are taken apart to remove the sword, as opposed to the sheath-type scabbards used by most other swords. The weapons are also said to have been carried into battle wrapped in cloth and slung across the back.
While the panabas is now rare and there are thus no contemporary cases of its use in battle, stories from and prior to the American colonial era describe it as being used for mop-up operations. It is said that warriors wielding panabas would form a rear guard and, following in the steps of warriors in front, use the panabas to quickly dispatch any survivors.In terms of its function as a weapon, similarities have been noted between the panabas and the western battle-axe.
Because of its effectiveness at chopping through meat, panabas was known favored for use in executions. As such, the panabas also came to symbolize a datu's power - a demonstration of his ability to control violence.
The function of the panabas is that of a large cleaver, and this shapes the domestic use of the panabas as much as it shapes the martial use. The noted use of the panabas as an execution tool sprang from its initial domestic use for cleaving meat and fish, easily chopping through the large tuna that are caught in the seas of the Southern Philippines. However, its main domestic use is that of clearing unusually dense vegetation.
Used as a broader term, the word panabas means "a chopper" - a description which would include the many machete-like sword variants in the Philippines, including the sickle. In portions of the Philippines where the panabas is not used, the term panabas is used to refer to the sickle, whose proper name is "karit." It should thus be noted that the panabas and the karit are completely different tools. A weaponized version of the agricultural scythe would be the Indonesian kerambit.
A machete is a broad blade used either as an agricultural implement similar to an axe, or in combat like a long-bladed knife. The blade is typically 30 to 45 centimetres long and usually under 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick. In the Spanish language, the word is a diminutive form of the word macho, which was used to refer to sledgehammers. In the English language, an equivalent term is matchet, though it is less commonly used. In the English-speaking Caribbean, such as Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, and Grenada and in Trinidad and Tobago, the term cutlass is used for these agricultural tools.
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.
The kukri or khukuri is a type of machete originating from the Indian subcontinent, and is traditionally associated with the Nepali-speaking Gurkhas of Nepal and India. The knife has a distinct recurve in its blade. It serves multiple purposes as a melee weapon and also as a regular cutting tool throughout most of South Asia. The blade has traditionally served the role of a basic utility knife for the Gurkhas. The kukri is the national weapon of Nepal, and consequently is a characteristic weapon of the Nepalese Army. The kukri also sees standard service with various regiments and units within the Indian Army, such as the Assam Rifles, the Kumaon Regiment, the Garhwal Rifles and the various Gorkha regiments. Outside of its native region of South Asia, the kukri also sees service with the Royal Gurkha Rifles of the British Army—a unique regiment that is quite different from the rest of the British Army as it is the only regiment that recruits its soldiers strictly from Nepal; a relationship that has its roots in the times of British colonial rule in India. The kukri is the staple weapon of all Gurkha military regiments and units throughout the world, so much so that some English-speakers refer to the weapon as a "Gurkha blade" or "Gurkha knife". The kukri often appears in Nepalese and Indian Gorkha heraldry and is used in many traditional, Hindu-centric rites such as wedding ceremonies.
Dao are single-edged Chinese swords, primarily used for slashing and chopping. The most common form is also known as the Chinese sabre, although those with wider blades are sometimes referred to as Chinese broadswords. In China, the dao is considered one of the four traditional weapons, along with the gun, qiang (spear), and the jian, called in this group “The General of Weapons".
The karambit, kerambit, kurambik, karambol or karambiak is a small Indonesian curved knife resembling a claw.
The yatagan or yataghan is a type of Ottoman knife or short sabre used from the mid-16th to late 19th centuries. The yatagan was extensively used in Ottoman Turkey and in areas under immediate Ottoman influence, such as the Balkans and the Caucasus.
The kampilan 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).
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.
The term kopis in Ancient Greece could describe a heavy knife with a forward-curving blade, primarily used as a tool for cutting meat, for ritual slaughter and animal sacrifice, or refer to a single edged cutting or "cut and thrust" sword with a similarly shaped blade.
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.
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 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.
"Weapons of Moroland" is a plaque or crest containing miniature models of weapons used by warriors from the indigenous peoples of Mindanao in the Philippines. As a souvenir, it is fairly common in gift shops, and is considered a pop culture icon. Displaying the plaque in one's home is one of several indications of "how Filipino" one is. It is jokingly used as a description of resistance to colonialism.
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.
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 snakes "dahong palay", purported to be extremely venomous. The snake is probably green specimens 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".
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.
Dao is the sword of the Naga people of Northeastern India, mainly in the Indian states of Assam and Nagaland. The sword, with its wooden hilt, and unique square form is used for digging as well as for killing.
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.