The Luzon bolo knives:
The ‘bolo’ or in Tagalog ‘Guloc’ is a general type of knife or sword found in the Philippines. Shapes, sizes and names vary in every district and the ‘bolo’ is used as both weapon as utility tool in the dense forests. The term ‘bolo’ is Spanish and means ‘knife’. In Luzon, the Northern region of the Philippines, a small group of high quality examples can be found. Often with engraved blades, elaborately carved horn hilts, silver fittings and horn scabbards with wonderful carved openwork details. Many of these bolo’s are attributed to the ‘Katipunan’ a revolutionary movement which fought against the Spanish colonials to prevail the independence of the Philippines.
Officers and high ranked members carried bolo knives with chiseled blades with brass inlay or silver-plated floral designs. The manufacturing of these knives was most likely manufactured independently in the area of Quezon and Manila, however they were also purchased and ordered by Spanish colonials.
A very uncommon type, with a very scarce type of hilt. Most found hilts are rounded, slightly curved downwards compared to the blade to create an optimal slicing effect. The hilts of this quality are usually decorated with floral motifs, but in rare cases depicted with animal heads such as parrots. This hilt features resemblance with a dingo or civet cat, both found in the Philippines. The grip is carved in overlapping scales to provide a firm grip. The pommel is well carved with protruding ears, copper inlayed eyes and very decorative carved fur, nose and muzzle. An embossed silver collar piece divides the horn hilt from the brass ferrule which tightens the blade. An indicator for the Luzon area is that the hilt was riveted on the blade with a nice silver nut, a European feature which was inspired from the Spanish colonials. Filipino indigenous sword hilts were usually attached with resin or tightened with cloth or fiber.
Even the blade seems to be of a different shape than we commonly see. The blade is single edged and shows a curve towards the tip. The spine starts out straight and tapers halfway ending in in the curved tip. The right side of the blade is decorated with an engraved cartouche filled with brass inlayed foliage. The left side is engraved with the name of the owner ‘Fransisco Vigil’ and dated 1884, which was a couple of years before the ‘Katipunan’ was established.
The name Fransisco Vigil emerges in José Nieto Aguilar’s ‘Mindanao: su historia y geografica con um prologo’ of don Fransisco de Martin Arrue where a certain señor D. Fransisco Vigil seems to be the principal of the ‘Overseas Museum Library’ in Mindanao. This might be the referring to the person who ordered this knife. By my knowledge, this is the first dated example of this small group of knives found.
Condition: Very good condition, the metal and horn show traces of use and age, but is in general good condition. The horn scabbard has a small crack on the bottom due to two missing pins. The silver fittings are newly made by K.H. Schermerhorn, specialist silversmith of the Haarlemsche Zilvermederij (court purveyor) and aged professionally. Further in excellent condition, being a rather unique piece in its kind.