Using an old grinding wheel, an edge is being put on the Bungay at the Loay forge. The stick tang is hammered into a piece of wood to give the worker a place to grab on to while grinding.

A few issues back, while researching blades of Southeast Asia in preparation for David Farmer’s Blademaster Profile, I had a chance to familiarize myself with some interesting modern versions of old, classic time-tested tools of the Philippines. Now it was time to journey to the country of their origin and see how they were made in the old traditional style using primitive equipment. This would turn out to be a trip of a lifetime and completing my own Bucket List with the hike up Taal Volcano in Tagaytay, Philippines.

Banaue Trio
jungle-bolo-bThe Banaue tri with wooden scabbards made of Narra wood and handles wrapped in rattan. Two larger jungle bolos with 12-inch blades and one 5-inch bladed knife all featuring a convex edge.

Banaue Rice Terraces lie in the northern mountain province of Ifugoa, Philippines. They are 2,000-year-old terraces that were carved into the mountains by ancestors of the indigenous people and are commonly referred to by Filipinos as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” From Baguio to Banaue, there was a style of bolos I kept seeing in the marketplaces and in the small shops. They had a simple design consisting of one piece of steel with a rolled handle similar to the Cold Steel Bushman knives and sporting handles wrapped in rattan, a type of climbing palm with very long and tough stems that are often used in wickerwork. I was very interested in finding the maker and it didn’t take me long at all. The locals pointed to a small shop and, as I approached, it was apparent that he was the guy whose work I had been admiring for a couple of days. I talked with the maker, known only as Manny, and purchased two jungle bolos and one small fixed-blade knife. I called one a Golok and was quickly corrected, “No, Jungle Bolo.” After all, I was in the Philippines and they have different names for knives. All three were forged from old jeep springs and came with a convex edge. To sum up these blades in two words—simplicity refined!

Loay Forge
After an hour plane ride down south from Manila, I journeyed to the Visayas region of Bohol, home of the Tarsier Monkey and the beautiful Chocolate Hills. The Chocolate Hills are an unusual geological formation consisting of about 1,776 grass-covered limestone hills spread over an area of more than 20 square miles. The hills are green, but in the dry season, they turn brown, hence the name Chocolate Hills. The city of Loay is another attraction in Bohol. It is famous for having the oldest blacksmithing forge.

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Using an old grinding wheel, an edge is being put on the Bungay at…