Philippines Late 1500s Bladed Weapons
Warfare during the late 1500s saw the continued development and use of early firearms. However, armies still relied on bladed weapons such as swords and polearms. This was because early firearms were hard to reload, and melee weapons were more reliable during clashes.
Swords were prevalent in Manila during the late 1500s. But by the 1700s swords became more ceremonial in use. Mounted units, such as cavalry, would use swords well into the 1800s.
Aside from European swords, there were also Japanese swords such as the katana. They were used by Japanese mercenaries in Manila who were hired by the Spanish. The corroded remains of a katana and a European sword were recovered from the San Diego Wreck which sank while fighting the Dutch in 1600.
Polearms were also used, such as the halberd, A halberd combined the blade of an ax, with the head of a hammer (or a hook), and the spike of a pike. These were gradually phased out by the 1600s, in favor of simpler pikes. The Governor-General’s personal guards, the Alabarderos or halberdiers, would continue to use the halberds until 1898.
Some samples were displayed until 2020 at the National Museum. Halberds are also depicted in the stone relief at Fort Santiago’s main gate.
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