The kampílan is a type of single-edged long sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 of the Filipino
Filipino people
The Filipino people or Filipinos are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the islands of the Philippines. There are about 92 million Filipinos in the Philippines, and about 11 million living outside the Philippines ....

 people. Being ancient origin, it has been used in the Philippine islands of Mindanao, Visayas, and Luzon for centuries, used for head-chopping.

The kampílan 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 and a bifurcated hilt
The hilt of a sword is its handle, consisting of a guard,grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A ricasso may also be present, but this is rarely the case...

 which is believed to represent a mythical creature's open mouth.

The Maguindanao
Maguindanao people
The Maguindanao are part of the wider Moro ethnic group, who constitute the sixth largest Filipino ethnic group. Their name means “people of the plains”.-Pre-Spanish:...

 and the Maranao
Maranao is the term used for the people of Lanao, a predominantly Muslim region in the Philippines island of Mindanao. They are famous for their artwork, sophisticated weaving, wood and metal craft, and their epic literature...

 of mainland Mindanao
Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country, which consists of the island of Mindanao and smaller surrounding islands. The other two are Luzon and the Visayas. The island of Mindanao is called The...

 preferred this weapon as opposed to the Tausug of Sulu who favoured the barung. The Kapampangan name of the Kampilan was "Talibong" and the hilt on the Talibong represented the dragon Naga, however the creature represented varies between different ethnic groups. It's use by the Illocanos have also been seen in various ancient records.

A notable wielder of the kampílan was Datu
Datu is the title for tribal chiefs, sovereign princes, and monarchs in the Visayas and Mindanao Regions of the Philippines. Together with Lakan , Apo in Central and Northern Luzon, Sultan and Rajah, they are titles used for native royalty, and are still currently used in the Philippines...

Lapu-Lapu was the ruler of Mactan, an island in the Visayas, Philippines, who is known as the first native of the archipelago to have resisted the Spanish colonization...

, the king of Mactan and his warriors who defeated the Spaniards and killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer. He was born in Sabrosa, in northern Portugal, and served King Charles I of Spain in search of a westward route to the "Spice Islands" ....

 at the Battle of Mactan
Battle of Mactan
The Battle of Mactan was fought in the Philippines on April 27, 1521. The warriors of Lapu-Lapu, a native chieftain of Mactan Island, defeated Spanish forces under the command of Ferdinand Magellan, who was killed in the battle.- Background :...

 on April 27, 1521.

The mention of the kampílan in ancient Filipino epics originating from other non-Muslim areas such as the Hiligaynon
Hiligaynon language
Hiligaynon, often referred to as Ilonggo, is an Austronesian language spoken in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines.Hiligaynon is concentrated in the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Capiz but is also spoken in the other provinces of the Panay Island group, including Antique,...

-Significance:The term "Hinilawod" means “Tales From The Mouth of The Halawod River". Hinilawod is an epic poem written by the early inhabitants of a place called Sulod in central Panay....

and the Ilocano
Ilocano people
The Ilocano or Ilokano people are the third largest Filipino ethnolinguistic group. Aside from being referred to as Ilocanos, from "i"-from, and "looc"-bay, they also refer to themselves as Samtoy, from the Ilocano phrase "sao mi ditoy", meaning 'our language here.' The word "Ilocano" came from...

 Biag ni Lam-Ang
Biag ni Lam-ang
Biag ni Lam-ang is an epic poem of the Ilokano people from the Ilocos region of the Philippines. Recited and written in its original Iloko, the poem is believed to be a composite work of various poets who passed it on through the generations, and was first transcribed around 1640 by a blind...

is possible evidence for the sword's widespread usage throughout the archipelago during the ancient times. Today, the kampílan is portrayed in Filipino
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 art and ancient tradition.

Physical description

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, and is thought to be the longest, though smaller versions (sometimes called the kampilan bolo) exist. A notable exception would be the panabas
The Panabas is a large, forward-curved sword, used by Muslim tribes 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 their heyday, they were used as a combat weapon, as an execution tool, and as a...

, another Philippine longsword, of which an unusually large example could measure up to four feet in length.

Related to the klewang, 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
The kris or keris is an asymmetrical dagger or sword nowadays most strongly associated with the culture of Indonesia, but also indigenous to Malaysia, Southern Thailand and Brunei. It is known as kalis in the southern Philippines. The kris is famous for its distinctive wavy blade , but many have...

-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. 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. Hilts were made of hardwood, but expensive examples that belonged to datu
Datu is the title for tribal chiefs, sovereign princes, and monarchs in the Visayas and Mindanao Regions of the Philippines. Together with Lakan , Apo in Central and Northern Luzon, Sultan and Rajah, they are titles used for native royalty, and are still currently used in the Philippines...

are covered in silver sheet or are entirely manufactured of expensive materials such as ivory or bone.


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

 of the kampílan is single-edged, and made from an Arabic pattern-welding process 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".

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.


The hilt is quite long in order to counterbalance the weight and length of the blade and is made of hardwood. As with the blade, the design of the hilt's profile is relatively consistent from blade to blade, combining to make the kampílan an effective combat weapon.

The complete tang
Tang (weaponry)
A tang or shank is the back portion of a tool where it extends into stock material or is connected to a handle as on a knife, sword, spear, arrowhead, chisel, screwdriver, etc...

of the kampílan disappears into a crossguard
On a sword or some knives, the crossguard , also known as quillons, is a bar of metal at right angles to the blade, placed between the blade and the hilt. The crossguard stops the wielder from punching shields while swinging the weapon, thereby protecting the user's hand...

, which is often decoratively carved in an okir
Okkir or okkil is the term for geometric and flowing designs and folk motifs that can be usually found in Maranao and Muslim-influenced artwork, especially in the southern Philippines, and in some parts of Southeast Asia...

(geometric or flowing) pattern. 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.

The most distinctive design element of the hilt is the Pommel, which is shaped to represent a creature's wide open mouth. The represented creature varies from sword to sword depending on the culture. Sometimes it is a real animal such as a monitor lizard
Monitor lizard
Monitor lizards are usually large reptiles, although some can be as small as in length. They have long necks, powerful tails and claws, and well-developed limbs. Most species are terrestrial, but arboreal and semiaquatic monitors are also known...

 or a crocodile
A crocodile is any species belonging to the family Crocodylidae . The term can also be used more loosely to include all extant members of the order Crocodilia: i.e...

, but more often the animal depicted is mythical, with the nāga
Naga or NAGA may refer to:* Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.-People:* Nayan / Nayar/Nair people of Kerala Society* Naga people, a diverse ethnic identity in Northeast India...

and the bakonawa being popular designs. Some kampílan also have animal or human hair tassels attached to the hilt as a form of decoration.


The kampílan is a weapon used for warfare, used either in small skirmishes or large-scale encounters. According to Philippine historical documents, the kampílan was widely used by chieftains and warriors for battle and as a headhunting
Headhunting is the practice of taking a person's head after killing them. Headhunting was practised in historic times in parts of China, India, Nigeria, Nuristan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Borneo, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Micronesia, Melanesia, New Zealand, and the Amazon Basin, as...


See also

  • Kalasag
    The Kalasag is a large rectangular shield used by the natives in the Philippines. The shield is made of hardwood and is decorated with elaborate carvings. The wood comes from native trees such as the dapdap, polay and sablang. It was widely used throughout the archipelago for warfare...

  • Kalis
    A kalis is a type of double-edged Filipino sword, often with a "wavy" section, similar to a kris. Unlike the kris, the Kalis's double-edged blade can be used for both cutting and thrusting....

  • Klewang
    The klewang is a traditional single-edged sword from Indonesia. In size, weight and shape it is halfway between the golok and the kampilan. The style of the klewang differs between the various cultures of Indonesia; there are straight bladed types, but most are curved.During the Aceh War the...

  • Kris
    The kris or keris is an asymmetrical dagger or sword nowadays most strongly associated with the culture of Indonesia, but also indigenous to Malaysia, Southern Thailand and Brunei. It is known as kalis in the southern Philippines. The kris is famous for its distinctive wavy blade , but many have...

  • Katana
    A Japanese sword, or , is one of the traditional bladed weapons of Japan. There are several types of Japanese swords, according to size, field of application and method of manufacture.-Description:...

  • Kampilan Division
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