Monday, December 27, 2010

Another Look at the New Philippine Banknotes

(Editor's note: to enlarge the graphics, just click on them)

By Alain Del B. Pascua

MANILA, Dec.20 (PNA Feature) -- When I first heard the news that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is releasing a new set of banknotes, the first thing I did was to see if the American flag in the P100 bill is still there.

It was no longer there, so I was very happy for the removal of a foreign symbol in our national currency. But my gratefulness was only for seconds and my jubilation was gone when I saw that the Leyte landing, led by American General Douglas McArthur, was depicted in the P50 bill.

I firmly believe that our national banknotes should not in any way give space to foreign symbols and personalities no matter their importance to our history. Yes, it is a reality that we were conquered by the Spaniards, the Americans and even the Japanese, but to put this on our national symbols such as our banknotes defy our very own sovereignty, independence and nationalism.

In the case of the P50 bill, why feature the Leyte Landing and the so-called “American Liberation of the Philippines,” when what should be highlighted is the victory and gallantry of the Filipino guerrillas against the Japanese invaders sans the Americans, who, led by General Douglas McArthur, left the country and departed to Australia when the Japanese forces held the upper hand in war.

It was the Filipino guerrilla who fought it out against the Japanese forces inch by inch until such time as the Japanese stragglers were already in the mountains and away from populated areas even before the so-called “Liberation of the Philippines by the Americans.” We have enough historical references on these events and yet our officials choose to honor events led by foreigners instead of events portraying the greatness of our Filipino “kababayan” (compatriots)..


The same observation can be said on the Coat-of-Arms of the Republic of the Philippines, which the BSP erroneously referred to as “Seal of the President” in all its descriptions of the new banknotes. Why is the Bald Eagle of the United States of America and the Lion-Rampant of Spain (the Charge of the Kingdom of Leon) included in the depiction of the Coat of Arms of the Republic of the Philippines when these symbols and representation of colonial history are no longer mentioned in the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines?

Republic Act No. 8491, An Act Prescribing the Code of the National Flag, Anthem, Motto, Coat-of-Arms and other Heralding Items and Devices of the Philippines, which was signed into a law on February 12, 1998, states in Chapter IV entitled “The National Coat-of-Arms,” Section 41:

“The National Coat-of-Arms shall have: Paleways of two (2) pieces, azure and gules; a chief argent studded with three (3) mullets equidistant from each other; and, in point of honor, ovoid argent over all the sun rayonnant with eight minor and lesser rays. Beneath shall be the scroll with the words "REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS," inscribed thereon.”


When the new banknotes was made public, the media highlighted the placement of three Aquinos in the P500 bill – that President Cory Aquino joined her martyred husband Ninoy Aquino, now sporting a smile unlike the sadness he depicted in the old bill, with the new President, their son Noynoy, signing anew the new banknotes. It’s history indeed!

The media also highlighted the relegation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a not so prominent space in the new P200 bill.

Of course, the BSP proudly announces the various security measures that are embedded in the new banknotes, the youthful looks of presidents and heroes, and the general designs and features. These changes are truly remarkable and very laudable.

After some hours of the announcement and few days have passed, serious criticisms have started to come out from every ordinary people who will be using the new banknotes.

From different sectors, from various quarters, from separate individuals – Filipinos took to the internet, to social networks, to email groups - they gave their collective observations:

1. The Philippine map excludes Batanes (the map only includes the Babuyan Islands);

2. Tubbataha Reefs is mislocated hundreds of miles away (the location alluded to is the Bulis Suan and Cagayan Sulu Islands);

3. St. Paul’s Subterranean or Underground River is also mislocated (the location should be near the sea, not inland);

4.The Blue-Naped Parrot is miscolored (beak should be red not yellow, and tail should be yellow, not green);

5. The scientific names defies the standard format (scientific names should be italicized);


Of the 6 new banknotes, five featured Luzon (P20 Banaue Rice Terraces, P50 Taal Lake, P100 Mayon Volcano, P500 Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, P1000 Tubbataha Reefs), only one featured the Visayas (P200 Bohol Chocolate Hills), and none featured Mindanao. Why the disparity?

Can we not give equal representation to Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao like the three equal and equidistant stars in the Philippine flag?

In Mindanao can be found Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the country; Philippine Eagle, the king of birds; Waling-waling, the queen of orchids; and many, many more. Why the obvious neglect?

Why only English names, aside from scientific names, accompanied the wildlife species? Why not include the Pilipino names – Alamid, Maliputo, Butanding, etc. which can easily be understood and identified with by the Filipinos?

In the P500 bill, why feature the Blue-Naped Parrot when it is more majestic to highlight the endangered Palawan endemics like the Palawan Peasant-Peacock, Palawan Hornbill or the Philippine Cockatoo?

The errors pointed out by the public can easily be corrected by the BSP. They should bow down to the collective wisdom of the Filipino people. The Filipino is their boss, is it not? And the errors pointed out can be rectified easily. Never mind if the first batch already printed becomes collectors’ items. That is a small price compared to doing the correct things, and properly so.


The new banknotes are generally great and laudable. The highlighting of national treasures – endemic wildlife, national heritage and culture - tops all of the new features being sighted in the new notes.

The use of Baybayin, the old Pilipino script, and the native cloth designs surely lifts the greatness of the Filipino race and stirs patriotism in all of us.

The new BSP logo – the Philippine Eagle in graphic style – makes up for the absence of Haring Ibon in the new series.


The present brouhaha over the new banknotes only show the importance of our currency forms in our national life, not only because if represents wealth and purchasing power, but more so because the banknotes are representations of our national treasures and our national struggle for greatness.

While the authorities have decided that the new banknotes continue to depict past Philippine presidents and modern-day martyrs and heroes, one can not help but ask why Presidents Emilio Aguinaldo, Jose Laurel, Ramon Magsaysay, Elpidio Quirino, Carlos Garcia and Ferdinand Marcos are not featured in our banknotes.

Never mind the controversy of having Ferdinand Marcos in our banknotes, but how about the others? Of course President Fidel Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are still living so we can safely say they do not yet merit being featured in our banknotes.

Of this new series, four modern-day heroes and martys were featured despite not being Presidents of the Republic – Josefa Llanes Escoda, General Vicente Lim, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos and Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. But where are the other heroes that fought for Philippine Independence and established the Filipino nation?

The greatness of heroes are usually depicted in banknotes bearing lower denominations. Gat Jose Rizal was/is feature in the P1 bill/coin, etc. But the practice of featuring national heroes to lower denominations like P1, P2, P5, P10 has become irrelevant as coins have replaced paper bills because of the devaluation of the peso. The present poor and the past national heroes are twin victims in the devaluation of the peso.

But our heroes – Gat Jose Rizal, Gat Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Emilio Jacinto, Antonio Luna, Melchora Aquino, Macario Sakay, Gabriela Silang, Lapu-Lapu, etc. – are personalities any generation of Filipino can easily identified with. Hands down, their roster will beat the roster of Philippine Presidents in inculcating love of country and fellowmen.

Their delegation to coins whose values are decreasing do not help in inculcating patriotism, nationalism, faith in the Filipino and the greatness of the Filipino people and nation. Put them in bank notes and, once again, we help every Filipino love and be proud of his/her country and heritage more.

Every Filipino hero mentioned above have been leaders of historical events that made our country today – the Propaganda Movement, Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Kataastaasan at Kagalanggalangan Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, the Great 1896 Revolution, the 1898 Declaration of Independence, the victory of the Filipinos in Balanggiga, Samar, the victory of Lapu-Lapu in Mactan, etc.

All these events that stir Filipinism, Filipino nationalism and patrimony, and the greatness of the Filipino people, can have greater and lasting impact on the Filipino people when featured in their banknotes and not just in coins.


To make our banknotes not only representations of wealth, purchasing power and currencies, but more so as repository of the Filipino people’s struggle for greatness and nationhood, and national treasures and patrimony, there is a need to break the limitations of having just 6 banknotes. Like any other country, it is very permissible to issue new series of banknotes with different features and highlights.

We can have a “national heroes and historical events” series where the national heroes and historical events discussed above are featured.

We can have another series depicting national symbols like the evolution of the Philippine Flag, the Lupang Hinirang, the Philippine Eagle, Sampaguita, Narra, Anahaw, Mango Tamaraw, Arnis, Sipa, etc.

Another series can highlight Philippine endemics, both flora and fauna.

We can have these series while maintaining the bills’ value of P20, P50, P100, P200, P500 and P1000 the same for every series.

It is high time for the country and the BSP to make Philippine banknotes as representations and repositories of what the Filipino is – from past to present – and the national treasures and jewels that we have blessed with.

Do not deny us our heroes, our history, our treasures, our patrimony. Make us proud and great. (PNA Feature)

(Editor’s Note: The author of this article is the current president of the Kaakbay organization, which sought party-list elections in the national poll this year with former National Treasurer Eleanor Briones as its candidate.)

(Pictures of banknotes with graphics from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas website at:

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