Blades of Glory

Gunung from Mindanao. (Photographs courtesy of At Maculangan)

Since time immemorial, humans have been making tools for their daily activities starting with those made from bones and stones. In the Philippines, the oldest evidence are the stone tools and the butchered rhinoceros fossil unearthed in 2014, which date back to an astonishing 709,000 years.

The advent of the Iron Age around 1200 BC revolutionized tool-making with more sophisticated and effective devices used domestically and in times of conflict.

Before the arrival of Islam and of the Spaniards, natives in what is now the Philippines have already been using such instruments as evidenced from artifacts and eco-facts recovered from archaeological sites all over the country.

Tabak of the Tagalogs from Batangas.

Iron tools or weapons such as kris or tabák were used daily and in combat. These are still being used today by a number of indigenous groups in the country and are popular among collectors.

One such collector is Edwin R. Bautista, the president and chief executive officer of UnionBank who has amassed dozens of bladed weapons.

In the book A Warrior’s Armament and Ornament: The Edwin R. Bautista Collection of Philippine Bladed Weapons (2020), Bautista recalled how he got into acquiring indigenous blade weapons and how he decided to donate a total of 163 artifacts to the Museo ng Kaalamang Katutubo (MusKKat) in Mandaluyong City.

Tálibong of the Panay Bukidnon.

In a chapter of the book, Bautista said it all started with his fascination with the tálibong, a bladed weapon from the Panay Bukidnon people in Capiz and Iloilo which is also used in other places in the Visayas.

He described tálibong as a tapering long sword of warriors from Panay with overemphasized belly marks and a dress sword worn by the Panay Bukidnon during special events.

“Undoubtedly, tálibong is an artifact that speaks of the rich historical and cultural links of Panay and neighboring countries in olden times,” he noted. This observation owes to the fact that there were pre-colonial connections of ancient Philippine communities with what is now Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

‘A Warrior’s Armament and Ornament’ by Edwin R. Bautista.

From his collection of tálibong swords, Bautista later added more blade weapons used by various ethnolinguistic groups in the country such as the tabák of Luzon, punyál of the Visayas, and gunung of Mindanao.

The idea to publish a book on blade weapons came in 2013 but did not materialize due to his busy work schedule: But a chance meeting with MusKKat personnel led by its head Corazon Alvina two years later led to the publication of the book, a first in the Philippines.

Bautista donated his collection to MusKKat as it is the proper institution that could take care and showcase the artifacts to the public through a book and eventually, a physical museum where these will be displayed.

The famous kris from Mindanao.

“As a collector, I have always believed that we are mere custodians of these cultural items and treasures,” wrote Bautista.

“We have a responsibility to pass on their custody to those who equally appreciate them, and who are willing to share this appreciation so that our understanding and valuing of our culture is enhanced (and) MusKKat is a worthy custodian,” he added.

A Warrior’s Armament and Ornament: The Edwin R. Bautista Collection of Philippine Bladed Weapons is available at Museo ng Kaalamang Katutubo in Mandaluyong City. Email [email protected]

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