October 11, 2014

Philippine Armor, Part 2

Thanks to Waw Maw, and my ex-student Joey who gave me an excuse to poke around the Aldevinco antiques and crafts arcade, I was able to get some more material on Philippine armor. I cannot be sure of the antiquity of the examples below, or whether they were ever used in war, but we can surmise that they at least resembled real war gear.


In my last post, I noted that I hadn’t seen Moro helmets that were not based on the Spanish morion design. Well it seems I’m getting old. Here’s a pic from the vikingsword forum of Moro panoply, likely Maguindanao, showing plated mail shirt, round taming shield, budiak spear, kris, and … a kulah zirah type helmet. It looks like a South Indian type of kulah zirah, like the one below, but has no nasal.


There were quite a few examples in Omar’s Antique Shop in Aldevinco, but alas I didn’t have my cam with me so no pics. Most of them were shallow caps with metal side and back panels, linked by brass mail. However none had the long neck guard of the Indo-Persian kulah zirah, nor did any have nasals. I guess lightness was more a priority than full protection. That said, the helmets were heavy. Perhaps they’d have been lighter if made of steel? Might that have been the reason the morion design got adopted, the morion design having pretty good neck protection if you wore it tilted up?

We also saw quite a few hardwood salakot, conical hats that were common civilian wear but could likely stop a sword cut. Here’s a pic similar to what we saw, found in the vikingsword forum:

maranao salakot

Were they ever used in war? This pic of a salakot accompanying a padded suit of armor (looks like abaca) also from the Philippines (region not indicated) seems to argue for it:


Again, I keep noticing the ubiquity of brass and organic materials. Comparing the pretty good state of the brass items with the woeful rusting on the antique blades also on display, it looks like resistance to corrosion was a big factor in the choice of brass over steel for making armor. In this humid climate, you’d likely have to replace steel armor far more often than is economical. Below is a leather coat from Sulawesi – an Indonesian island quite near Mindanao, and very likely to have traded influences with it. It also looks similar to some of the items I saw in the Escudero Museum.


Speaking of organic material, Waw Maw sent me reference pics of two helmets, one from the Cordillera and another from Mabate. The wooden one below is credited as Ifugao.


And this one, made of porcupine fish skin, probably stretched over leather, gourd or wicker, is from Masbate:


Now that is one oddball helmet, reminds me more of the Polynesian ones. The decorated metal finial makes me think it belonged to some person of authority; however it looks very crudely made. Now I’m very curious about the story of this helmet! The quest continues …

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