Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Moro Armor: Is it Moro?

A lot has been written about Moro armors. Some say they are Spanish in origin while others claim them to be Moro in every chain, chip, and detail. Moro is usually defined as the people of Mindanao although the people of Borneo were also called Moros by the European explorers in pre-twentieth century and by the Americans in 1900's.

If Moros traditionally made and wore armors a long time ago, Muslims of Mindanao would have a lot of armors in their closets as inherited items from their old folks. They must have also influenced the Lumads (non-Muslim natives) of Mindanao in making and wearing armors centuries ago. Unfortunately, those cases, at present, are non-existent.

Maybe only a dozen of armors exists today. That tells us that only a handful of Moro warriors wore armors. Maybe the leaders were the only ones who were protected. It also suggests that these armors are not actually Moro in origin. They were not made in Mindanao. A group of foreign warriors must have brought them there. I have a hunch that the Ottoman Turks brought those with them together with Sunni Islam, Arabic language, and their genes that reached Sulu. The available pieces of evidence- archaeological, linguistic, and genetic, say so.

When we talk about metal armors, the first thing that should come to mind is the image of warriors on horses. These armors are heavy so riding a horse is a great help. Exhaustion is the weakness of any warrior. I just don't think that a Moro warrior would wear a heavy metal armor and walk along the mountainous terrain of Mindanao under the tropical heat of the sun. It would also be a drag to wear one during wet season while marching on slippery, muddy fields. They would need horses for these armors to be helpful.

The Moros of Mindanao were not known traditionally as warriors on horses. They had no history of breeding horses, going to war on horses, and celebrating something related to horses. They were not comparable to Turks and Mongols with horses. Spanish and American accounts do not say anything about Moros riding horses, fighting with their krises and kampilans, and wearing metal armors.

Maybe a few leaders did, but wearing armor was not a cultural thing among the Moros. Even the Spanish Chroniclers who witnessed the death of Magellan did not write anything about Lapu-Lapu in armor. They wrote about the natives' spear, I don't think they would miss the shining metal armors of the early Filipinos if they had and wore them. Those early leaders in armors, I think, were influenced by the foreign warriors who visited them.

Even the Americans in their campaign against the moros in 1900's never encountered Moros in armors in many battles they waged. However, there are existing photos taken by the Americans during peace time where a handful of Moros donned and modeled armors. The way I look at them, they were prodded or forced to wear them for the camera. I think those armors were actually collections or inherited possessions by the high-ranked datus or even sultans not normal or usual protective wears traditionally used by just any Moro warriors.

Next: Turkish not Moro Armors