The Kampilan

3 minute read

A native weapon to the Philippines, the kampilan is a single-edged sword that was used by many ethnic groups that resided in the country. Its unique tapered blade and artistic hilt made the sword become a significant part of Filipino history. Continue reading to learn about the origin of the kampilan and its variety of purposes, courtesy of American BladesPro. 


Specifically made for combat, the kampilan has been wielded during many small skirmishes and large scale warfare across the Philippines. Chieftains and warriors commonly used the sword to headhunt when engaging these melees. Historical research shows that the sword was wielded in many high profile battles. Throughout one of the most infamous Filipino wars, the Battle of Mactan, several Portuguese soldiers were slain by the sword including prestigious explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. Once the Mactans won the battle decisively, many of the surviving Portuguese troops referenced how effective their swords were. 


A painting reenacting the events that took place at the Battle of Mactan.

Although the weapon was designed to cause damage, it was also used in ancient Filipino epics (poem or story) such as Darangen of Mindanao and Hinilawod written by the Visayas. During the Sagayan, a war dance performed by the Maranao and Maguindanao people, the sword is carried to recreate a scene from the Darangen poem. 

Measurements and Purpose

In comparison to other swords forged in the Philippines, the kampilan is significantly larger. Overall, the sword is generally 90-100cm (36-40in) in length but only weighs a surprising, 454g (1.13lbs). Despite warriors carrying the sword with one hand, it is classed as a two-handed weapon. Every kampilan has three components, a blade, a hilt and a sheath.

Kampilan's are visually stunning and dangerously effective. This image display a traditional kampilan and its fitted sheath.

Its blade is forged from laminated steel and has a single edge. Most kampilan blades are forged using a Damascus steel pattern welding technique. When performing this technique, the blade is forged with a tapered edge to inflict damage on enemies. The spikelet at the tip of the blade is different for each kampilan. Various spikelets have patterns along them and are usually filled with brass at the top to support the tip of the blade. 

Along with unique blades, kampilan hilts are also carved authentically. Its hilt resembles the moro kris dagger due to its design but unlike the Indonesians, the kampilan commonly depicts four types of animals; a bakunawa (dragon), a buaya (crocodile), a kalaw (hornbill or a kakatua (cockatoo). Several of these hilts were created from bone, wood and metal. 

There are a wide variety of hilts that can be used to forge a Kampilan but the sword's sheath is often made with a minimal amount of materials. Since many warriors did not have time to take their sword's sheath off during an unexpected skirmish, it was made from cheap wood and sealed with rattan or strands of fibre. This allowed warriors to strike enemies with the blade despite having the sheath on due to its weak structure. Considering how accessible the materials were to gather, most sheaths were disposable in battle.  

Weapons with Similar Attributes 

Based on the success of the kampilan, smaller versions of the sword such as the pirah was forged for agricultural purposes. Other Filipino swords that resemble the kampilan include, the bangkung, utak and banyal. There are also swords outside of the Philippines that have similarities to the kampilan like the mandau of Borneo, the Minahasan Santi of Northern Sulawesi and the pedang bara of the Sangihe Islands. 

For many Filipino warriors, the kampilan was their weapon of choice. Now, you can choose one that suits you using our detailed Sword Guide. Follow the link to find your inner warrior!