Thursday, September 17, 2009

P is for peso

As early as 20 January 1899, US President William McKinley established the Philippine commission and instructed it to report on, among other matters, the currency situation in the Philippines, the newly independent republic who God supposedly told him to "Christianize and civilize". The Commission said that if there were monetary changes to be made, a dollar of the same weight as the Mexican silver one could circulate, but a new symbol distinct from the US dollar sign had to be configured to avoid confusion.

Someone suggested that the capital letter P be used to denote Philippine money because the word Philippines starts with a P, so does the word peso, and the Spanish word for silver which is plata. Moreover, the letter P is found on all typewriters. The naming game must have attracted the attention of American Judge Charles E. Magoon, acting chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, who immedidately sent a telegram to Governor William H. Taft in Manila. He supported the idea but said the letter P should be in capitalized Roman font with two parallel lines "passing through and extending slightly beyond loop at right angle to shaft or stem..."

That design was promulgated by the US colonial government through Executive Order No. 66, which stipulated that the Roman character P with the two lines be used",,,by all officials as the designation of the new Philippine pesos to differentiate it from the $ mark for United States currency and Pts. of Spain..." That was how the peso got its P. #

Designer Coins

You may be pleased to know that a Filipino designed the first "territorial coin" minted by the United States for its new colony, the Philippines. At the end of Spanish rule, there was a veritable Babel of currencies in this country, even coins from Spain's ex-colonies in Latin America were accepted as legal tender.

As early as 1903, when the Filipino-American War was still raging, the US Congress passed the Coinage Act to put some logic in the currency situation. A local sculptor, Melecio Figueroa, was hired to design the first Americana territorial coins. On the reverside of the coin, Figueroa drew the mighty American eagle with wings outstsretched and the words "United States Of America" with the year, 1903. On the obverse side, he put a lady, standing tall, holding a hammer-like instrument resting on an anvil. That coin was the size of a Mexican silver dollar.

Mr. Figueroa must have been a dotting father for he used his own daugahter as a model for the mallet-weilding lady, even if she was only ten years old then. I wonder why he did not ask his wife to pose, instead of imagining how his pre-teener would look like as an adult.

He had another design for the one centavo and half-centavo coins-- a man, also with a hammer and anvil, but seated in front of the Mayor Volcano. Eventually, the half-centavo coin was pejorataively called "kusing" as it was perceived to be valueless; it was eventually withdrawn from circulation. These designer coins are now collectors' items#