On old coins and new peso bills-A A +A
By Bob Lim
Monday, August 20, 2012
BELIEVE it or not, there was a time when a one-centavo coin was a lovely part of childhood. With it, a child could buy a piece of coconut candy wrapped in brightly-colored Japanese paper.
He could also save five one-centavo coins to try his luck on a hulbot-hulbot game at the nearby sari-sari store where he could win a tube of plastic balloon or a paper-inflated ball. Nicknamed usa ka daku in the dialect because of its initial big size, the one centavo coin was also a plaything, used in the largely forgotten children’s game called tak-si.
Made of bronze, the first one-centavo coin was issued under American rule in 1903.
Naturally, the money in circulation then featured the American coat of arms with the inscription United States of America, with the text in English.
Prior to this, the Philippine numismatics bore the indelible imprint of 300 years of Spanish colonization. With the Philippines gaining independence from America after World War II, the Filipinization of coins and bills mirrored the transition.
In 1967, Pilipino or the national language was used in the monetary system of the country. And the one-centavo coin attracted its fair share of attention for several reasons.
Firstly, its size was reduced. Secondly, it was now made of plastic-like material. The make-over literally implied its devalued worth. With very little buying power, the one-centavo coin was treated by youngsters as part of the play money that came wrapped in
But thirdly, the biggest furor it stirred was the use of the likeness of Lapu-Lapu on it. Many were offended that the first Philippine hero who fought the first wave of foreign invaders in the Battle of Mactan was held in such low regard.
And here lies the supreme irony. To recall, it was in the late ‘60s and part of the ‘70s that a resurgence of nationalism was bannered by a vocal segment of Philippine society. The concept of nationalism was celebrated in songs by progressive artists; was discussed by media persons of the free press; was the battle-cry by students and organized labor in rallies; and was the underlying theme of a handful of idealistic politicians in the halls of Congress who saw the impending threat of another form of oppression.
After the signing of Proclamation 1081 by former president Ferdinand E. Marcos on Sept. 21, 1972, which placed the country under Martial Law, the Ang Bagong Lipunan money series were printed beginning in 1973. The one-peso coin and two-peso bill featured the National Hero, Jose Rizal; while president Marcos was featured in the five-peso coin and a commemorative one-thousand peso gold coin released in 1975 to celebrate the third anniversary of the founding of Ang Bagong Lipunan or The New Society.
The 1986 People Power Revolution put an end to the 20-year old Marcos regime. Also known as the Edsa Revolution, it started with the assassination of Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in 1983; followed by the holding of the 1986 snap election that thrust Ninoy’s widow, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, as the opposition’s standard bearer; and culminated in the mass protests by the religious, military and the common citizens in reaction to the electoral fraud engineered by Marcos.
In 1987, Ninoy’s martyrdom was celebrated in the 500-peso bill. It showed a pensive Ninoy based on an Asiaweek cover photo. Twenty-three years later, Ninoy and Cory appeared in the redesigned 500-peso bill released in December 2010.
Part of what is called the New Generation Philippine Banknotes, the 500-peso bill is unique in many ways. It features Ninoy and Cory wearing broad smiles, in contrast to the serious demeanor of other personages. It’s also the first time that a husband and wife appear on a peso bill. And on it are the three Aquinos: Ninoy and Cory, with their son, Benigno Simeon Aquino III putting on his signature as president of the Republic of the Philippines.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 21, 2012.