Bolo or itak in Tagalog is a blade that symbolizes the Philippines’ fight for independence.
This blog post aims to raise awareness of the origin, basics, and benefits of the use of this tool.
Traditionally, the bolo is believed to have been an agricultural tool used by farmers in cutting and removing tall grasses and weeds.
However, it was also a combat weapon commonly used by Filipino soldiers during the Spanish Occupation (1521-1898)until its formal adoption as a sidearm of the Philippine Army in 1913.
It was also during the American Occupation (1898-1946) when bolos, along with other edged weapons of the Philippines were banned due to a peace treaty that
Today, Bolo knives are mainly used for agricultural purposes and as all-purpose utility knives. It is also a popular collector’s item. In Southeast Asia, the knife is commonly used for farming. Due to its unique bulge, it is the best knife for harvesting narrow row crops, such as moong beans, soybeans, and rice.
Coconuts are also split with the knife. As a farming tool, it is widely seen in the countryside, just as it was used during the Spanish colonial period as a substitute for carabaos.
Dull bolos are used for chopping and splitting wood or other materials. Due to its design, it is very useful for those who chop wood. The knife’s unique bulge adds weight, which is offset by the hollow handle, assuring that it will not break easily even when doing difficult tasks.
Also widely used in the woods is the compact, weighted knife for cutting vegetation. Just like a machete, you can also use it as a combat weapon.
Bolos have long been symbols of the Katipunan and Philippine Revolution, and particularly of the Cry of Pugad Lawin. A monument depicting Andres Bonifacio holds the Katipunan flag and a bolo in one hand, as do several others of the Katipunan’s prominent figures.
Typically, bolos have a flat top and a curved blade with only one sharpened edge. If the blade is 18 inches long, it is more likely to be dull.
In contrast, a sharpened edge is ideal as a combat weapon. The shape of the blade also resembles that of an ordinary kitchen cleaver. In fact, it was initially based on the design of a carabao’s horn.
These tools come with handles made out of either native wood or animal horn. Carabao horn is popularly used on bolos today.
The handles form part of the blade making it stiffer and more durable. The rectangular cross-section at the base allows one-handed maneuvering for chopping while the circular cross-section makes for a comfortable, non-slip grip when using the tool as a weapon in close quarters fighting.
These blades have a full tang. This means that the blade runs all the way through to the end of the handle.
The full tang bolo gains more strength and better balance because its weight is distributed throughout its length. It also allows one-handed manipulation, making it a superior chopping tool compared to those with half tangs or no tang at all.
In a nutshell, a bolo knife is a versatile tool made to help farmers. Although it can also be used as a combat weapon, the long and heavy blade makes it easy to use when chopping wood or other materials. It has been said that bolo knife is one of the reasons why Filipinos are called hard workers.
But more than this, the tool is a symbolism of the bravery and resilience of the Filipinos. It is a reminder to this day of how Filipinos fought for their freedom and rights.