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The Interesting Military Order of the Carabao: A Lampoon that Was "Made in the Philippines"

It's been a while since I last wrote. I believe my last published blog was the piece on the Mindanao Campaign medal ( I wrote in August of last year, nine months ago. But ever since I posted that blog, I've had many ideas as more medals have come my way. But my attempts and dream to make a career in writing a reality had to give in to the reality of life that has been passing us by. However, this particular piece came about after accidentally purchasing these medals. It was more of consecutive impulse buys triggered by the very familiar symbol on the reverse, which always catches the eye of Philippine Numismatic and Exonumia collectors. After more research, which I believe was "all over the place," I discovered a fascinating history behind this medal.

The Military Order of the Carabao (MOC) was organized in 1900 in Manila to " foster a high standard of military and social duty and to perpetuate the memories and associations of military service in the Philippines during the early days of American occupation.” It was founded in the Philippines in November 1900, but its birth hour and day are unknown. However, it is believed to have been some time after midnight at the Army-Navy Club in Manila during the Philippine Insurrection. It was thought that the founding of the Order was "to counter and satirize the Order of the Dragon, which was founded by those who had defeated the short-lived Boxer uprising in China."

The name, according to Veterans’ Organization Specialist Kevin Beyer in a post he made in a U.S. Military forum I came across on the web, was suggested by Major George L. Byram, a Spanish-American cavalryman who recognized the services rendered to the American forces by the faithful Carabao during the war. Eventually, according to the MOC website, “the Carabao Order came to epitomize the camaraderie that grows among members of the armed forces who face the dangers and privations of extensive military service far from home.” Over the years, the membership eligibility for the Order has evolved to include war campaigns after the war in the Philippines.

According to the Order's website (, the Membership Committee of the Order may extend membership to commissioned officers or former officers of any of the armed forces who have served either as an officer or as an enlisted man under one of the following classifications. (An enlisted man becomes eligible only after receiving his commission as an officer.)

  1. Veteran Carabao: Those who served in the Philippine Islands between May 1, 1898, and July 4, 1913, or between December 6, 1941, and July 4, 1946.

  2. Amphibious Carabao: Those who served west of the International Date Line where such service was incident to the liberation of the Philippines - World War II, December 6, 1941, to July 4, 1946.

  3. Companero Carabao: Those who served in the Philippine Islands between July 4, 1913, December 6, 1941, or after July 4, 1946.

  4. Expedicionario Carabao: Those who have served overseas in support of an officially identified military campaign, e.g., Operation Desert Storm, etc.

  5. Associate Carabao: Includes accredited war correspondents serving with any forces engaged in liberating the Philippines. In addition, by the Executive Committee's action, this membership may be conferred upon any person who has rendered distinguished and valuable service to the Order to the Nation.

  6. Tenero Carabao: The Order is a hereditary one. Eligibility is extended to descendants over twenty-one years of age, regardless of military service, of any member, or a person who is, or was, eligible to be a member.

  7. Honorary Carabao: Conferred by the Main Corral upon the President of the United States and the Ambassador to the United States from the Republic of the Philippines.

I find it so amusing that a very American and essential Military Order of the USA, whose member includes guys like Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Richard B. Myers, former CIA director and Defense secretary James Schlesinger, Congressman Ike Skelton, Air Force Secretary Pete Aldridge, NASA director Sean O'Keefe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Peter Pace, General P. X. Kelley, General Alfred M. Gray, Jr., former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Admiral James M. Loy, General Jack N. Merritt, General Billy Mitchell, and General Carl Mundy carries the local word of the water buffalo under each of the membership classifications of the Order. A word that describes a very common animal, not to mention familiar here in the Philippines and one that I always see when I go to local farms. I guess our old reliable water buffalo did indeed play a critical role during the American's visit here more than a century ago, or as they say, our Carabao left their mark on the Americans.


Type 1

The initial design of the medal, defined as TYPE 1was described by Bishop and Elliot's American Society of Medals as only used from "June 30 and August 5, 1905". The beautiful obverse design shows the different places in the Philippines that the Americans occupied. All of these are carved intricately in banners surrounding the head of the Carabao, surrounded by strands of bamboo scattered in-between places such as Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, Panay, Samar, Sulu, Masbate, Marinduque, Cebu, and Leyte. While the reverse side bears the emblem of the Katipunan -- the rising sun and the three stars representing the three major areas in the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Underneath the emblem is the word "CARABAO" and a number representing the membership number of the medal recipient. It is hard to imagine this beautiful medal being used briefly. If the American Society of Medals' claim were accurate and valid, this badge, with a high-quality design, not to mention very beautiful, was only used for 37 days, making looking for one much like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Type 2

Eventually, a new design for the Order designated as Type 2 was developed. According to Bishop

and Elliot, this design was adopted in late 1905, produced by Bailey, Banks, and Biddle (BBB),

illustrated in their sales catalog and priced at $7.00. The dark planchet identifies this type with a gilt carabao on the obverse with an anagram of the initials of the Order -- "M.O.C." and the reverse having the same triangular design with the rising sun and three stars and what BBB described as “the grand seal of the so-called Filipino Republic'." A lapel button which is a miniature of the medal, was also adopted. The membership number awarded is engraved at the bottom of the rim of the medal recipient. Consistent with Type 1, the bar from which the medal is suspended bears the representation of Mt. Arayat, a stratovolcano located in the province of Pampanga. This volcano was familiar to all who participated in the early campaigns north of Manila with General Lawton and General McArthur.

TYPE 2a (obverse)

TYPE 2a (reverse)

The latest variant of the medal, designated as Type 2a, stopped using the dark planchet but still had the same obverse and reverse design but in an all-in gilt-bronze design. Some sources mention that the dark planchet of the Type 2 variant was stopped in the 1980s, and a new designer made the new design -- DONERO, Inc., a company based out of Brownsburg, VA. The company's name is also engraved on the back of the pin. However, as seen from the images, the design has not changed much. It was initially copied straight out from the BBB design from Type 2. However, the quality of the design of Type 2a does not compare to the quality of Type 2's design, as can be seen from the images of the sun and the stars on the reverse, with a much more delicate engraving and the sun made by BBB looking more like the original sun as seen on the sun medallion that once belonged to Andres Bonifacio.

Type 2 and Type 2a sun image

The sun medallion of Andres Bonifacio (from Leon Gallery auction)

One notable observation from the three variants is their common use of the pin that has the Mt. Arayat design and the use of a ribbed silk ribbon with three stripes, the two outer stripes being blue and the inner strip being yellow-orange, representing the colors of the headquarter's flag of the Eight Army Corps.

After more than three months from the time I initially bought the miniature Type 2a medal to my small victory in a bidding war on eBay that allowed me to get the more prominent Type 2a medal three weeks ago, I realized that the real victory would come when I could find and purchase the Type 1 and 2 variants of this medal. A feat that may take a long time or never happen at all. But as all collectors always say, the "thrill is in the hunt." So hunting we shall go. Until then, more in-depth research on the medal is needed to understand this very interesting Military Order further.


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