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Old 3rd September 2021, 07:45 PM   #1
drac2k
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Default A Nice Small Punal

I recently picked up this item and based on the aluminum washers, I would guess that the punal is circa WW2. What I like about this dagger is the very fine(to me), engraving work and I was wondering if this is an older reworked blade.
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Old 3rd September 2021, 08:12 PM   #2
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Pics of your punal please.
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Old 3rd September 2021, 11:39 PM   #3
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Default Punal pictures

Please see attached pics.
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Old 4th September 2021, 02:47 PM   #4
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Hi drac.

This dagger is fairly recent, including the engraved blade. I'd say late 20th C from the Lake Lanao area of Mindanao. It is Maranao workmanship and a nice looking piece.

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Old 4th September 2021, 07:58 PM   #5
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Thanks for the info; nice to see that there are craftsmen over there still doing decent work.
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Old 5th September 2021, 11:04 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
This dagger is fairly recent, including the engraved blade. I'd say late 20th C from the Lake Lanao area of Mindanao. It is Maranao workmanship and a nice looking piece.
Hi Ian,I kindly disagree, I am pretty sure that this style is around 50 years older as you stated. I own some in this style so I guess from the used materials (aluminium, german silver, horn, ivory, early plastic, banati) and the clear signs of long time use a time frame between 1930 until 1950. By end of the 20th century examples I wouldn't expect such a patination my examples clearly show.
Best regards,
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Old 5th September 2021, 11:06 AM   #7
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And here an example from our member Kronckew.
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Old 5th September 2021, 11:09 AM   #8
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And two from my collection with other blade shape but from the same time frame.
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Old 5th September 2021, 11:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drac2k View Post
I recently picked up this item and based on the aluminum washers, I would guess that the punal is circa WW2. What I like about this dagger is the very fine(to me), engraving work and I was wondering if this is an older reworked blade.
Hi Drac2K,

A very nice example indeed and I concur with your age guess. The three shown examples from my collection with similar blade style have laminated blades and I bet that yours as well.
The ivory shows clear signs of age so you don't need to get a bad conscience that you have bought recent ivory!

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 5th September 2021, 11:28 AM   #10
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BTW, I prefer to call them gunong instead of punal, "punal" is the notation the Spanish colonists give them.
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Old 5th September 2021, 02:55 PM   #11
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Hi Detlef,

Of the examples you show, the one in the top left is the oldest in style. The hilt, guard, and scabbard may well be pre-WWII. The blade style seems later, although it may be an earlier blade with later engraving. The other two look post-WWII to me, especially the mixed-media guards. I have found patina is not a very reliable guide with these knives, with discoloration returning fairly promptly after cleaning (and even using a sealant such as Antique Wax).

We have talked before about aluminum on Philippine weapons, and it is still my belief that this feature was not seen pre-WWII. I have yet to be shown a convincing example with aluminum prior to the 1940s. There may be a rare example out there, but I have not come across it (and I have been looking). WWII was an excellent opportunity for reclaiming aluminum from downed planes, and was the first time this fairly uncommon metal became available in reasonable amounts for indigenous use. Aluminum cans did not come along until the 1960s.

The multimedia hilts and guards, as shown in the original post in this thread, are relatively recent and have increased since the 1960s. Similar examples are still being made in the Lake Lanao region and nearby areas. Similarly, blades engraved with okir designs have become more prominent since the 1970s, and continue to be made. Although well crafted, many of these knives are now produced for visitors to the islands and customers more widely.

In the 1990s, the multimedia hilts were occasionally seen in the antique and cultural shops of Manila. By 2005, they were more common and appeared to be manufactured recently. They now appear on eBay with some regularity, having not been at all common there in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
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Old 5th September 2021, 04:08 PM   #12
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First, let me compliment you on your many beautiful gunong(I will try to refer to them as such from now on); some of your scabbards, especially the wooden one with the leather throat, would certainly indicate pre-WW2 construction as well as the quality of your blades which also denote an early elegance that I find lacking in recent production.
In regards to the use of aluminum in the adornment of Philippine weapons, I've often wondered about it being exclusively WW2 and after. In its early years, Americans found it to be a rare and exciting commodity; so much so that it tops our Washington Monument that was dedicated in 1885. Thus we have a highly prized metal, available after 1885, and a large American presence in the Philippines after 1889; if we Americans found this metal to be so special, why wouldn't the local Philippine warrior find this to be rarer than gold or ivory and want to incorporate it into his weapon?
I agree with Ian that most of these blades that incorporate aluminum are from WW2 and later, but I was wondering if there are certain rare exceptions?
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Old 5th September 2021, 05:29 PM   #13
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The problem with aluminum is that it was a very difficult process to extract it from bauxite ore, so up to then it was almost a precious metal of sorts. Thus US and Germans used it for special occasions since it was rare due to the difficult process. Only later in WWII did aluminum become common and available to the world, including the Philippines from downed planes. This is why you see aluminum on Philippine weaponry from WWII on. It was no longer a very wealthy man's metal.
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Old 5th September 2021, 07:13 PM   #14
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I agree with you completely that the availability of aluminum during and after WW2, due to its vast availability was extensively incorporated into Philippine weapons, however, my question is, that with the great number of US Army personnel and the extensive Naval Fleets there, isn't there a possibility that some aluminum was there prior to WW2? Whether it was for nautical gear or to resist the prevalent tropical corrosion, both applications would have made it a prime component in that location, if even on an experimental basis. Many a file has walked off of US bases only to be reincorporated into a blade.
Why would one fabricate a nice gunong, composed of ivory, shell, horn, etc., and throw in 5 or 6 small aluminum washers and devalue the piece to modern-day collectors; surely the bladesmith could have used copper, etc., knowing that the piece would be more valuable. In the pieces that Sajen has and to a lesser degree the one that I have, I feel that the producer of these daggers valued the incorporation of aluminum far beyond its ascetic look.
I agree with 99.5% of what you have stated: I'm just asking if it is possible?
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Old 5th September 2021, 08:24 PM   #15
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Default A few from my collection.

I few of these from my collection. I have some of the more narrow bladed (almost) single edges ones with okir also, but I thought I'd stick to these broader bladed ones.

I'm not sure I'd qualified to give an opinion on the age of these, but I find the argument that they're older compelling. These are showy, and feel like status pieces. Ivory isn't uncommon on them (like the middle one here). It would follow that the use of aluminum here is because it was a rare material, not because it was a readily available one.

Have fun,
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Old 6th September 2021, 01:10 AM   #16
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Guys,


Let's remember that WWII ended 75 years ago, and 1970 was 50 years ago! Some of these post-WWII knives will look quite old--and they do. Much of my dating of gunong comes from observations and discussions with dealers during my work trips to the Philippines in the 1990s and early 2000s.


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Old 6th September 2021, 06:25 PM   #17
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I really doubt that end of 20th century gunongs are worked with laminated blades and have a handle from ivory since they are worked for tourists.
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Old 6th September 2021, 06:27 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drac2k View Post
First, let me compliment you on your many beautiful gunong(I will try to refer to them as such from now on); some of your scabbards, especially the wooden one with the leather throat, would certainly indicate pre-WW2 construction as well as the quality of your blades which also denote an early elegance that I find lacking in recent production.
Thank you and I agree with you.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 6th September 2021, 06:33 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
Let's remember that WWII ended 75 years ago, and 1970 was 50 years ago! Some of these post-WWII knives will look quite old--and they do. Much of my dating of gunong comes from observations and discussions with dealers during my work trips to the Philippines in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Hi Ian,

WWII area and even 1970 isn't end of the 20th century, see my statement above, I really doubt that tourist gunongs have laminated blades and ivory was also at end of the 20th century an expensive material.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 7th September 2021, 12:05 AM   #20
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Is that grip Ivory,or is it possibly "shell".
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Old 7th September 2021, 04:06 PM   #21
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Hi Detlef,

In earlier discussion I used "late 20th C" to mean the last quarter of the 20th C (1975–2000).

As you know, dating Filipino pieces is difficult. It is hard to know how long it takes Moro items to filter into the commercial stream of the Philippines. Thirty or forty years ago, it took longer for Moro crafts to be traded into the wider marketplace, and the appearance of such items in Manila or Makati occurred some time after their manufacture. Based on discussions with Manila merchants in the 1990s and later, that delay shortened after National Government/Bangsa-Moro conflicts and tensions started to ease. In the last 10–20 years it has become much more common to see recently made Moro crafts available in Manila and other major centers.

Again, based on my discussions with Manila merchants, the types of gunong shown in the original post of this thread are likely of relatively recent manufacture. Those with a prominent central bulge to the grip, stacked horn/plastic/metal/bone elements, and horn (± metal inserts/pins) guards were stated to have been made from about the 1970s, and increasingly since the 1990s. It is possible that these informants may have been off by a decade or so, but some of them had been trading since the 1950s or 1960s, and knew what they were talking about. Based on the information I obtained, these multimedia examples are almost certainly post–1950 and most likely post-1960. [I say "almost" because hearsay is never absolute.]

Detlef, you are perfectly entitled to believe these types of gunong are older and come from the 1930s or 1940s. However, I have found no evidence to support such an earlier date.

Regards,

Ian
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Old 7th September 2021, 04:32 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drac2k View Post
I agree with you completely that the availability of aluminum during and after WW2, due to its vast availability was extensively incorporated into Philippine weapons, however, my question is, that with the great number of US Army personnel and the extensive Naval Fleets there, isn't there a possibility that some aluminum was there prior to WW2? Whether it was for nautical gear or to resist the prevalent tropical corrosion, both applications would have made it a prime component in that location, if even on an experimental basis. Many a file has walked off of US bases only to be reincorporated into a blade.
Why would one fabricate a nice gunong, composed of ivory, shell, horn, etc., and throw in 5 or 6 small aluminum washers and devalue the piece to modern-day collectors; surely the bladesmith could have used copper, etc., knowing that the piece would be more valuable. In the pieces that Sajen has and to a lesser degree the one that I have, I feel that the producer of these daggers valued the incorporation of aluminum far beyond its ascetic look.
I agree with 99.5% of what you have stated: I'm just asking if it is possible?
Hi Drac,

I'm sure there was quite a lot of aluminum on Clark AFB prior to WWII. The military had many uses for it. However, it would have been in engines and other structural components that would have been hard to put in your pocket and walk off the base. I don't know if it is possible for the metal to have found its way into the hands of Moro craftsmen prior to WWII.

I can't speak to "why aluminum and not some other metal?" Earlier gunong were made with coin silver as a form of decorative white metal. Perhaps aluminum seemed a more exotic form of white metal for decoration purposes. Or silver became harder to find at a reasonable price when the silver content of coins decreased, so they turned to another white metal that polished brightly. I don't know, but the Moro are not the only ones to use aluminum on hilts in the Philippines post-WWII.

Regards,

Ian.
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Old 7th September 2021, 05:43 PM   #23
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First, in Reply to David, the handle could be shell; I have a large gunong that has a shell handle.
Next,Ian, I appreciate your extensive knowledge of Philippine weapons and your travels to that land, where you have actually talked to the artisans who made these. Could you show me some examples of daggers from the '70s, '80s & '90s, and the maker's names that the works are attributed to? I feel that they should be researched & cataloged as this period might have been a Renaissance in the crafting of those objects, worthy of future study.
Next, as per your observation, there certainly was an abundance of aluminum in the Philippines, so I don't see it as an impossibility that a worn piston was traded for a mess of fish; the way the aluminum was used so sparingly, seems to indicate that it was valued.
In conclusion, let me state that I have the highest regard for your vast expertise and I am only questioning if the usage of aluminum predates WW2, and if not in these items, possibly others.
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Old 7th September 2021, 09:05 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
In earlier discussion I used "late 20th C" to mean the last quarter of the 20th C (1975–2000).

As you know, dating Filipino pieces is difficult. It is hard to know how long it takes Moro items to filter into the commercial stream of the Philippines. Thirty or forty years ago, it took longer for Moro crafts to be traded into the wider marketplace, and the appearance of such items in Manila or Makati occurred some time after their manufacture. Based on discussions with Manila merchants in the 1990s and later, that delay shortened after National Government/Bangsa-Moro conflicts and tensions started to ease. In the last 10–20 years it has become much more common to see recently made Moro crafts available in Manila and other major centers.

Again, based on my discussions with Manila merchants, the types of gunong shown in the original post of this thread are likely of relatively recent manufacture. Those with a prominent central bulge to the grip, stacked horn/plastic/metal/bone elements, and horn (± metal inserts/pins) guards were stated to have been made from about the 1970s, and increasingly since the 1990s. It is possible that these informants may have been off by a decade or so, but some of them had been trading since the 1950s or 1960s, and knew what they were talking about. Based on the information I obtained, these multimedia examples are almost certainly post–1950 and most likely post-1960. [I say "almost" because hearsay is never absolute.]

Detlef, you are perfectly entitled to believe these types of gunong are older and come from the 1930s or 1940s. However, I have found no evidence to support such an earlier date.
Hi Ian,
Like drack I have a deep respect for your knowledge about Philippine weapons but in my humble opinion it doesn't make any sense to work blades meant for selling to tourists from laminated steel. And also the combination from precious materials with aluminium let me believe that these types of gunongs were worked around WWII and not much later.
But like you said, it's not easy to date Philippine blades.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 7th September 2021, 09:30 PM   #25
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I would concur with you that this gunong dates to the 60s until 70s which was shown not long ago here but I think that the others here showed examples dates 10 until 30 years earlier.
But also this example seems to have a laminated blade so I guess I was made for use and not as a souvenir.
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Old 8th September 2021, 12:54 AM   #26
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There are still kris and barong, etc. that are not made for tourists but for using, but they are different in style and in quality. The craftsmen are much fewer today than they were a century ago in general, though there are some very small number of exceptions.
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Old 9th September 2021, 02:59 PM   #27
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Hi Detlef:

The issue of laminated blades in Moro weapons, especially in the mid- and late-20th C, is an interesting one. Some of the following information comes from our forum friend xasterix who, with other Filipinos, has been researching Philippine blades for some time and has spoken with panday and others who make them.

Laminated blades were the norm during the time of Spanish occupation of the Philippines and into the early 20th C. However, with greater access to steel in various forms, the forging of blades from mono-steels and alloys became more common. These newer steels actually produced better weapons, such that mono-steel was preferred for weapons and tools. This recognition seems to have occurred fairly early in the time of the U.S. presence, around 1920 or so. As we look at Moro bladed weapons produced after this time, there is an increasing preference for mono-steel, particularly in the 1930s, during WWII, and subsequently.

The exception seems to be among "prestige" pieces with fancy hilts. Here the continued use of laminated blades may have been for aesthetic reasons or a nod to tradition. One also notices that some of these "prestige" pieces had poor quality blades, probably because they were not intended for anything more than show while in their scabbard. I have seen several examples of beautiful ivory and other precious hilts on kris with blades that would barely cut butter. There was a time, I think pre-WWII, when this became relatively common and has continued since then. That is not to say that high quality hilts with high quality blades were no longer made, but rather that not everything that looked good in the scabbard was high quality all round.

As a general observation, and by no means an absolute statement, it is customary in the last 80-90 years for Filipinos to make edged items (tools and weapons) from mono-steel when possible. In general, they cut better and break less often—mono-steel does not delaminate. Laminated blades are made either by those who could not afford or could not acquire mono-steel, or by those pursuing aesthetics and traditional cultural techniques.

Finding a laminated blade on a gunong might suggest a few things. It could mean that the blade is from before WWII when laminated blades were more common. Refitting of old blades with newer hilts is common. However, gunong were not highly regarded as weapons and redressing them with fancy hilts for what was essentially a work knife or a concealed weapon may not have made a lot of sense. If you look at examples collected by U.S. soldiers and researchers in the period 1900–1920, these knives were very plain and had simple wooden or horn hilts. Fancier versions mostly came later, and have long been an item for sale outside the culture.

Which brings us to the second reason for finding laminated blades on gunong—the "bling" factor. Laminated blades look cool, especially with fancy hilts.

A style of gunong akin to the original post, but pre-dating it in the time of first appearance, has a similar hilt with a prominent bulb in the middle, and usually a banati, bone, or ivory pommel. The "bulb" is part of the ferrule, and the ensemble is all metal. The bulb may be decorated with filigree and other metalwork. Better quality hilts have silver for the ferrule and bulb, while others have copper alloys (such as white brass/German silver, yellow brass, etc.). In shape and concept this style was clearly the precursor to the multimedia hilts, some of which have been shown here. The all-metal versions were still being made into the late 20th C, but I suspect they have not been made for the last 20 years.

There are other small Moro knives that have been dressed up in different ways. There are all metal knives and scabbards with fancy curling guards, that have been referred to as sarimanok knives. These may date back as far as the 1930s. They feature metal (usually brass) hilts and guard, often with a brass scabbard. Blades on these knives are usually wavy, very thin and poor quality. [The sarimanok is a fanciful and mystical chicken, mostly associated with Maranao folk lore.]
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Old 9th September 2021, 05:04 PM   #28
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Quote:
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There are still kris and barong, etc. that are not made for tourists but for using, but they are different in style and in quality. The craftsmen are much fewer today than they were a century ago in general, though there are some very small number of exceptions.
I agree. I have seen some very high-end recently made traditional Moro weapons. Though i have not had the opportunity to price them i assume they aren't cheap since they are not cheaply made either in craft or materials. It is hard to say who these weapons are being produced for, but i do not believe we can write them off as mere tourist trinkets. More likely serious blades made for serious collectors.
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Old 9th September 2021, 05:42 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Ian View Post
As a general observation, and by no means an absolute statement, it is customary in the last 80-90 years for Filipinos to make edged items (tools and weapons) from mono-steel when possible. In general, they cut better and break less often—mono-steel does not delaminate. Laminated blades are made either by those who could not afford or could not acquire mono-steel, or by those pursuing aesthetics and traditional cultural techniques.
I agree with much of what you are saying Ian, though i believe the jury is still out on the laminated vs mono-steel question. At least i am sure you will still find quite a bit of difference of opinion here. It has been my understanding though that mono-steel is more apt to break than laminated steel, since a laminated blade can restrict the areas of high carbon steel, which is most likely to break, to the areas where it is most needed, allowing the over all body of the blade more resistance to shattering under stress.

Quote:
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Finding a laminated blade on a gunong might suggest a few things. It could mean that the blade is from before WWII when laminated blades were more common. Refitting of old blades with newer hilts is common. However, gunong were not highly regarded as weapons and redressing them with fancy hilts for what was essentially a work knife or a concealed weapon may not have made a lot of sense. If you look at examples collected by U.S. soldiers and researchers in the period 1900–1920, these knives were very plain and had simple wooden or horn hilts. Fancier versions mostly came later, and have long been an item for sale outside the culture.
I have seen a good number of old gunong from this 1900-1920 period with laminated blades AND "fancy" dress. By fancy i don't mean extravagant, but rather well crafted from highly prized materials. If you had the means your gunong probably had ivory and silver fittings. I don't think it was so much a matter of the style of the times as what your societal status was. I have attached my own example from this era.

Quote:
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There are other small Moro knives that have been dressed up in different ways. There are all metal knives and scabbards with fancy curling guards, that have been referred to as sarimanok knives. These may date back as far as the 1930s. They feature metal (usually brass) hilts and guard, often with a brass scabbard. Blades on these knives are usually wavy, very thin and poor quality. [The sarimanok is a fanciful and mystical chicken, mostly associated with Maranao folk lore.]
Though this is probably not the place to get into a larger discuss on sarimanok, i must say i find referring to this important cultural symbol of the Maranao people as a "fanciful and mystical chicken" a bit dismissive and misleading. It is derived from the totem bird Itotoro, and is seen as a medium to the spirit world via its unseen twin spirit bird called Inikadowa. While the perceived image of this cultural totem has indeed become more "chicken" like in more recent years, it seems to have less in common with this common fowl in older artistic interpretations. It does clearly have a very deep seated position in Maranao culture even if a great deal of it's former power and place has been lost to time and cultural suppression (i.e. colonialization). This is obvious in the way this icon appears again and again in cultural representations and marketing.
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Old 9th September 2021, 07:30 PM   #30
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Hi David.

I agree pretty much with all you have said. There certainly were better made gunong in the past. This was mostly in terms of high end materials, as you note, rather than departure from a simple design. Your example is a beautiful and elegant gunong and typifies the simplicity of the knife at that time. I used the word "fancy" more to describe the embellishments to that simple basic form: the addition of a "bulb" to the middle of the hilt, the use of multimedia in construction of the hilt, and decoration of the blade with okir engravings.

No disrespect intended in using the word "chicken" to describe the sarimanok. Manok means chicken in many Philippine dialects. If you prefer to substitute "bird" that works for me too.

As far as mono-steel versus laminated steel, that's a whole separate discussion of metallurgic characteristics and forging. Many laminated blades perform excellently, but their forging and tempering required considerable skill to obtain a high level of performance. By and large, I think mono-steel did not require the same level of skill in forging and tempering the blade, with gradual loss of the older techniques over time.

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