The Barong (Barung)
The Barung is the favored weapon of the Sultanate of Sulu. This single-edged, leaf-shaped blade is an amazingly effective slicer and chopper, capable of cleaving a man in two. Barung blades are thick and heavy, ranging from 30 to 60 centimeters (12 to 24 inches) in length, and often laminated.
Some barung blades were made by Chinese smiths and are of high quality. Decoration of the blade was rare, although there are examples with inlaid brass dots or chiseled plant designs inlaid with brass or silver.
The barong is also a weapon used by Islamic tribes in the Southern Philippines. If the older barong blade lengths range from 8 to 22 inches (20 to 56 cm), the newer blades tend to be longer measuring at 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm). Damascene (Damascus steel) patterns are also thick but again most often not as controlled as the more widely known kalis.
Most barongs handles have a silver sleeve and lacquered braided fiber rings that sit on top. Nobility hilts were made of ivory, carabao horn, or kamagong (Philippine ebony). Other barong swords have less elaborate hilts and are smaller in size. Common motifs include the cockatoo and naga (dragon). The long metal ferrule is most often made of silver, though copper, brass and swaasa is also used.
Barongs used in World War II may also have aluminium ferrules. The ferrule tends to be around 8 cm (3 inches) in length. Often the ferrule will have lacquered braided natural fiber rings to aid in grip. Sometimes these fiber rings were on top of the ferrule, but often what would appear to be a solid metal ferrule would in fact be a number of metal bands that alternate between the fiber bands.
Older barong scabbards tended only to be partially wrapped with large rattan lashings, while newer barong scabbards feature a full wrap of thin rattan. Also, the scabbards of older barong featured thinner flat boards, whereas post World War II barong scabbards are of much thicker stock, and feature a central ridge line.
The terminus on modern-made scabbards tends to turn upward to a more dramatic degree, often at a near 90-degree angle and feature squared tips. As with kris scabbards of the post World War II era, mother of pearl inlays begin to appear at the throat and tips of barong scabbards as well.
Photo source: Filhistory