Favorite Find: The Bloody Kris

As a collector of militaria there is always that one great find. This time around it is an antique Moro kris from the Philippines.
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The Kris and scabbard showing the mother of pearl decorations on both the hilt and scabbard. Also visible is the upper band of brass at the end of the blade entering the hilt and engraving on the blade.

The Kris and scabbard showing the mother of pearl decorations on both the hilt and scabbard. Also visible is the upper band of brass at the end of the blade entering the hilt and engraving on the blade.

About a year ago, I ran into some spears and a shield from the Igorot natives of the Philippines at one of the local antique stores that I regularly visit. Since I collect Philippine Constabulary items, these native items were of real interest to me — the Constabulary were directly involved with the control of the several Austronesian ethnic groups in the Philippines who inhabited the mountains of Luzon and were regarded as “headhunters.”

The collection was offered for sale by the daughter of the man who had owned them. It included three different spears, an original shield, and a distinct headhunter’s axe. I was interested in the whole set, so I made an offer to purchase the whole group through the store to submit to the lady who owned them, She called me and accepted my offer.

Close up of the rear end of the blade showing the engraved band denoting royal “Datu “or princely ownership. The lower band is of steel and matches the blade.

Close up of the rear end of the blade showing the engraved band denoting royal “Datu “or princely ownership. The lower band is of steel and matches the blade.

After I paid for and picked up the collection, she called me again and told me more about her father, Allan Hatley. He had passed away a few years prior in the San Antonio, Texas, area where I live. She mentioned that she had a “large knife/sword which was one of his favorite items.” She said that it also came from the Philippines. The price was very reasonable for what she had described, so I purchased it, sight-unseen.

Much to my surprise, the large knife turned out to be a very fine, antique Moro kris. The kris and the barong — a large leaf shaped heavy machete type knife with a 3-inch wide blade that usually was 15 to 18 inches in length — were the main weapons carried by the Philippine Moro natives.

When I went to pick up the kris, she gave me a large envelope. Inside was a document that attested to the history of what I now call, “the Bloody Kris.”

Close up of the entire hilt showing the fancy trim of silver and mother of pearl of the “Bloody Kris.”

Close up of the entire hilt showing the fancy trim of silver and mother of pearl of the “Bloody Kris.”

According to the document, the knife was removed from the dead body of Talibon in 1954. He was a “Datu” — a ruler or prince of numerous indigenous peoples throughout the Philippine archipelago — and the nephew of Kamlon (also a Datu). Together, Talibon and Kamlon were among the most wanted and feared Moros in the Philippines.

According to Dr. Navarro, who presented the kris to Mr. Hatley, the kris is was-well documented to have killed several dozen enemy during the Talibon family usage. The document also traced the history of the kris back to the 1880s, when it was used against the Spanish. It was used again against General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. in the early 1900s and against the Japanese in WWII. In 1949, it was used in a fierce battle that killed an entire platoon of Philippine Constabulary.

The document states that a soldier who took the kris off the body of Talibon gave it to Capt. Salvador Navarro a Philippine Air Force pilot who was involved in the battle of 1954. Both Navarro and Abdul Lukman, a highly respected Moro judge, attested to the history, information, and description of the kris. Capt. Navarro later gave the kris it to his brother, Dr. C. Navarro, who, in 1958, presented it to his friend, Allan Hatley, the father of the lady from whom I purchased it.

This “Bloody Kris” is probably one of the few known documented Moro blades with such a notorious history.