Utzurrum: BPI’s two milestones

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014


THE year 2014 opened with Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) launching, quite appropriately, a coffee table book on money and a business library.

By coincidence, the book entitled Salapi (meaning money in Cebuano) was introduced at the bank’s main branch, where else?

The night’s other grand unveiling was the BPI Library-Cebu, a project of BPI, and the BPI Foundation, in cooperation with the Ayala Foundation. It was upon the request of Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama that the bank donated the topmost area of the BPI’s main building along Magallanes and P. Burgos Sts., to be Cebu’s first ever, business library, free and open to the public. Three cheers for you, Mayor Mike!

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Personalities gracing the glitzy event were Mayor Mike, Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, and BPI chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who delivered the enlightening keynote speech.

Let me tell you more about this coffee table book, a 280-page, well-researched, literary piece, photographed in dazzling color and great, detail, Salapi was written by Jose Eleazar Bersales and my good friend, Carlos Ledesma Apuhin (my favorite banker and collector of rare artifacts) as well as Fr. Generoso Rebayla Jr. SVD.

From the historic barter to banknotes, the book faithfully traces the evolution of our currencies from coins to paper money. The volume not only dwells on the introduction and popularization of coinage in the colonial era but also on the variety of barter currencies that made our islands a favorite trading center for Arab, Chinese and other Asian merchants, long before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers.

With images and information from the extremely rare collection of BPI and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Money Museum, as well as a handful of local and foreign collectors, this book indeed covers much of our country’s numismatic history. In a sense, the coins and banknotes in this volume are the best evidence of the trajectories of history that has brought the Philippines to where it is today.

In brief it was a most historically-informative and heritage-filled evening starting with the venue itself, BPI is an architectural heritage landmark in neo-classic design, now a repository of reference books on economics, finance, management and trade.

And guess what? Best of all, our very own Salapi was written and published in Cebu, by Cebuanos. Mabuhi, BPI! Mabuhi, Cebu!

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 03, 2014.

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