Ivory hilted Moro Philippine Sword Barong or Bankung

Very rare and unusual form of Moro sword from the Southern Philippines. Clearly related to the typical barong sword, but with a much extended double-edged blade, and a most atypical pommel carved as a monsters head from a solid block of ivory, the upper jaw ending with carved leaves and flowers.

The grip with a ring of horn above a collar of silver with turned decoration to the ends, and a single bound ring of rattan/cane. The blade long and slender, of good quality steel and interestingly with both edges sharpened, a feature not common on Moro swords.

Complete with its original scabbard of rich coloured hardwood, with carved upper and lower section and bound with cane at intervals. 25 ½ inches overall length, the blade just under 18 inches long.

Source & Copyright: Ashoka Arts 

Tausug barung.

I was in Manila over the weekend and got talking to a Tausug couple. I told them I was interested in Moro culture and weapons, and we ended up talking about barungs and krises. The man above told me he had an heirloom barung he might be interested in selling. He was hesitant to show it to me at first, but then he went and got it from where he had it hidden. His wife and kids had never seen it before, and he told me he didn’t like handling it or owning it–he wanted to take it back to Jolo, Sulu.

According to the owner, the barung had been in his family for several generations. From the handle, I believe it was made in Basilan. The story was that when his family decided to build a new home, they had to move one of their ancestor’s graves, and this barung was found buried in the grave. In it’s present condition, it is severely rusted and the scabbard had been wrapped in black tape to hold it together. The man above told me he was plagued with dreams after handling the barung because of its long (and possibly bloody) history. I was fascinated by his story and grateful for having a chance to handle an older barung, which he had never shown anyone else. It was surprisingly light. I was lead to believe the older barungs were massive and heavy, but this one was fairly standard as far as barungs go. 

Basilan Yakan Pira.

These piras are the traditional swords of the Yakan, the tribesmen who call the island of Basilan home. Getting these piras was no easy task, and would be an even harder task now after 17 (or 30, depending on whose account you believe) Philippines’ soldiers were killed by the MILF on Basilan, a group which wants to free the Muslim areas of the ARMM from Philippines’ rule.

This beautiful pira was expertly ground from handforged carbon spring steel. Both the hilt and sheath were carefully carved from Basilan mangrove wood. Mangrove would is not commonly seen on piras anymore because many of the Yakan have retreated into the mountains due to immigration into the coastal areas of Basilan.

The 13.75" blade is 5/16" thick at the base and this is a mean, convex ground chopper. The balance point is 4.25" in front of the handle. This pira is definitely not intended for agricultural use, although it would hold up well for that purpose if need be. 

This is a heavy, solid pira and the only one of three from this forge that I accepted. There are some natural checks in the wood (common in mangrove wood from this region of the world). The handle and scabbard have been finished in clear coat varnish to seal it off from the elements. Unfortunately, the scabbard has contracted in the dryer air (Basilan is an extremely humid place) and it now takes a really strong pull to draw the pira. There is a strip of painstakingly hand woven red Yakan cloth on the scabbard. This cloth has to be seen to be believed.

This is a truly beautiful piece that would be welcomed in any Bangsamoro (Southern Philippines Muslim) collection. 

The hilt of this sword measures in at 5.75". The design of the piras’ hilt really ensures your hand is not going to come off the handle when you swing hard! There is a minor crack in the handle I filled with JB Weld. I also filled several small cracks in the mouth of the sheath with JB Weld, which is an extremely strong steel epoxy.

This is an outstandingly beautiful sword you will definitely not find anywhere else. It truly was a mission to get these, and I honestly would be happy to keep them. Basilan and Zamboanga are currently on high alert after the recent violence there, so I’m not sure if and when I’ll be able to get any more.

This sword measures 22" in the scabbard, or 19.5" on its own, and it weighs in at 1 lb 9 oz, or 2 lb 8 oz with the scabbard. $320 including shipping.

I also managed to pick up a slightly longer pira (24 3/16") with a molave handle and scabbard and rattan wrap. The blade on this second pira is slightly thinner at 3/16" at the base. It is 17" long. From the scratch pattern on the steel, I believe this blade was ground, sharpened and finished without power tools: like the sansibars of Leyte, I believe it was wet ground and sharpened on a carbide bench stone.

This second pira features a strip of beautiful back loomed Yakan cloth. 

The handle measures in at 5".

The scabbard flares toward the ends: a feature I have never seen on any other sword from the Philippines. The scabbard is extremely well made. It holds the pira well and allows for a fast, smooth draw. It is 20" long.

Piras just like this one are being passed down in Yakan families in Basilan today, and I have no doubt members of certain infamous organizations in Basilan carry them in the field along with their M16s and rocket launchers. 

This pira measures in at 21 15/16" overall (24 3/16" in the scabbard). The balance point is 6.25" in front of the handle. This pira weighs 1 lb 8.25 oz, or 2 lb 1.25 oz with the scabbard. $320 including shipping.