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Marcos Regime Introduced Colorful Notes
philippines bank notesBy Carlson R. Chambliss, Bank Note Reporter
April 05, 2010
philippines bank notes

The history of paper money in the Philippines goes as far back as the early 1850s when El Banco Espanol Filipino issued its first notes. In the 1870s these were supplemented by notes issued by the Spanish Colonial Treasury. During 1898 and 1899 the revolutionary government of Emilio Aguinaldo issued a number of crudely printed one- and five-peso notes. Notes of the American administration were first issued in 1917 and 1918 at a time when silver prices rose to unprecedented heights and substitutes for silver coins became necessary. During World War II, of course, there were both issues of Japanese occupation forces and numerous provisional issues of various anti-Japanese units, the so-called Philippine guerilla notes.

Although the Philippines received its independence from the United States in 1946, the Central Bank of the Philippines did not begin to function until 1949. Its first issue of paper money consisted of overprints on fresh printings of the Victory notes of 1944 that had been produced at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. All eight denominations from the one to the 500 pesos were overprinted, and as might be expected the highest values of this issue are decidedly rare.

In 1951 these notes were replaced by the so-called “English” issue. This name is appropriate since these notes were inscribed in English, as were almost all of the American-era notes, and the peso values were printed by Thomas de la Rue.

Also included in this issue were fractional issues for five, 10, 20, and 50 centavos that were printed by the Security Banknote Co. in the United States. The fractional notes remained in circulation until 1958, when they were replaced by coins made of various copper alloys.

Previously there had been silver coins for 10, 20, and 50 centavos, but these disappeared from circulation once the peso began to decline in value at the beginning of the 1950s.

During the American administration of the Philippines it was customary to have most series of notes signed by the chief executive of the country. After the formation of the Commonwealth of the Philippines in 1936, the signature of Manuel Quezon appeared on these notes as president of that autonomous state. This tradition was continued after independence, and all notes of the Central Bank bear the signature of the president of the Philippines. The notes of the provisional issue of 1949 bear the signatures of either Sergio Osmena or Manuel Roxas, while the signatures of presidents Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, and Marcos are to be found on the so-called “English” issue that was initiated in 1951. Not all signature combinations appear on all nine denominations of this issue, however, and it is clear that a few of the values (most notably the 200- and 500-peso notes) were being removed from circulation in the 1950s.

Ferdinand Marcos, an IIokano-speaking politician from the northern part of the main island of Luzon, was elected president in November 1965 and took office at the end of that year. He had previously served both as a congressman and a senator in the Philippine legislature.

Although the so-called “English” issue was to continue in circulation for another three years, only the one-, five-, 10-, and 20-peso notes of this series were issued with the signature of Ferdinand Marcos. In fact, the 200- and 500-peso notes of this series had already been discontinued, and releases of notes of these denominations did not appear again until many years later and well after Marcos was out of office.

In 1969 a totally new set of notes was issued by the Central Bank. These notes are inscribed entirely in Pilipino, which is based on the Tagalog language of central Luzon. They bear a newly designed bank seal that is also inscribed in Tagalog but dated 1949, the year of the formation of the Central Bank. Only six denominations were issued, ranging from one to 100 pesos. The three lower denominations depict heroes from the independence struggle of the 1890s, Jose Rizal (1861-1896), Andres Bonifacio (1863-1897), and Apolinario Mabini (1864-1903) on the one-, five- and 10-peso notes, respectively. The 20-, 50-, and 100-peso notes depicts the first three presidents of the Commonwealth and Republic periods, Manuel Quezon (1878-1944), Sergio Osmena (1878-1961), and Manuel Roxas (1892-1948), respectively.

Each note carries two signatures—that of Marcos as president and that of the governor of the Central Bank. During Marcos’ tenure there were a total of five different Central Bank governors. Apparently this is a non-political job, since the first of these, A.V. Castillo, served under the two prior presidencies of Garcia and Macapagal, while the last, J. Fernandez, continued to serve under Carazon Aquino after Marcos had left the country. Marcos signed these notes as President of the Philippines (Pangulo ng Pilipinas in Tagalog), and the obligations stated on them are the same as those on the 1949 issues except that all inscriptions are now in Tagalog rather than English.

All Pilipino notes of this period measure 162 by 56mm, which makes them just slightly longer than the current U.S. small-size notes. The notes are numbered in blocks of 1 million, and each six-digit block on a normal note is preceded by one or two block letters. Replacement notes are indicated with a “+” sign that is used instead of the serial block letters.

The notes of 1969-1984 can be divided into two basic groups. The first of these have no special inscriptions about their central watermarks. These include a one-peso note (piso in Tagalog) as well as notes for five to 100 pesos.

Marcos was duly elected to the office of president in 1965 and again in 1969. The constitution of the Philippines then in force did not permit a third term of office, but by proclaiming martial law in 1972 Marcos was able to extend his term in office. He introduced a new constitution and a new social program in 1972 which was termed The New Society (Ang Bagong Lipunan in Tagalog), and beginning in 1974 all paper money of the Marcos administration carried this inscription in the watermark area of each note.

Once again there were six denominations, but the one-peso note was replaced by a cupronickel coin in this value depicting Jose Rizal, and huge numbers of these were minted in 1972 and 1974. A two-peso note also depicting Rizal was introduced at this time.

The color schemes employed on the earlier notes were followed, and thus the two-, five-, 10-, 20, 50-, and 100-peso notes were basically blue, green, brown, orange, red, and violet, respectively. Additional shading is provided on each note, and Philippine notes of this vintage are extremely colorful and attractive in appearance. Although Thomas de la Rue did assist the Central Bank with some of the initial design work, many of these notes were printed at the new Central Bank and National Mint complex in Manila that was opened for business in 1977.

The back designs of these notes remained basically the same throughout the Marcos period. Both the one- and two-peso notes depict the proclamation of Philippine independence from Spain in 1898. This declaration was made by Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964) in the town of Cavite.

The five-peso note depicts a meeting of the clandestine anti-colonialist Katipunan organization that was formed by Andres Bonifacio, who is depicted on the faces of these notes. The 10-peso note depicts Barasoain Church, which was used for many meetings of the Philippine Republican government in 1898 and 1899. The 20- and 50-peso notes depict two important buildings in Manilla, Malacanang Palace and the National Legislature. The former is still the official residence of the president, while the latter is now the National Museum. There are two quite different designs for the backs of the 100-peso notes. The first depicts the former headquarters of the Central Bank, while the second portrays the new mint and the Central Bank complex that was opened in 1977. This was one of several large public works projects that were built during the tenure of the Marcos regime. The Ang Bagong Lipunan 100-peso notes utilize both of these back designs.

Three different commemorative notes were produced in this period. In 1978 a special overprint was applied to some of the 50-peso notes honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sergio Osmena. It seems a bit odd that a similar overprint was not also applied to the 20-peso notes to honor the 100th birthday of Manuel Quezon, who was born in the same year. In 1981 there were two additional commemorative notes. Large numbers of two-peso notes were given a special overprint honoring the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Philippines. In the same year a number of 10-peso notes were overprinted to proclaim the inauguration of President Marcos for a fourth term in 1981.

The overprint contains a profile of Marcos, and this the only depiction of this long-term president to appear on a Philippine bank note. The portrait of Marcos does appear, however, on numerous postage stamps, a circulating five peso coin, and various gold and silver coins that were sold to collectors.

Both the papal visit and the Marcos inauguration notes exist in special presentation form. These items have zero serial numbers and serial blocks of JP and FM, respectively. They sell at large premiums.

Almost all of the regular Philippine notes exist in specimen form. Usually these have zero serial numbers and the word “SPECIMEN” overprinted in capital letters. Specimen notes also exist for the notes of the 1951 issue and for many of the later notes.

Uncut sheets of four do exist for the last issues of two-, five-, 10-, and 20-peso notes of the Marcos regime, but large numbers of different types of uncut sheets of four subjects or larger in denominations as high as 500 pesos did not appear until the late 1980s. These even include full sheets of 32 subjects of some of the notes that were made available to collectors.

In terms of basic design types a complete set of the 1969-1984 issues of Philippine bank notes would consist of 26 different major varieties, but this increases to about 50 when one takes signatures (three different in several cases), serial number colors (black or red), and a couple of other subtle differences into account. Both specimen and replacement notes exist for almost every type, and some of these will doubtless pose a challenge to acquire. All of the major varieties of notes of this period, however, are readily available.

Since there are only 1 million notes per serial number block, there are numerous block varieties, but this does not make it much easier to obtain solid serial numbers or other types of “fancies” than would be the case for the United States with eight digits in its serial numbers or Canada with seven. For the normal notes, however, everything should be easy to come by and nothing is rare or expensive.

Under American rule the Philippine peso was officially valued at two to the dollar, and that rate of exchange was maintained during the first few years of national independence. By the late 1950s, however, this valuation was competing with an “unofficial” rate of about 3.50 pesos to the dollar.

In 1960 a system of multiple exchange rates were set up, the most widely used of which was a rate of 3.90 pesos per dollar. This was the rate used by the Marcos administration to the end of the 1960s.

Inflationary pressures then led to a floating exchange rate, and typically the peso was trading at about 6.50 to the dollar until a new official rate of 6.78 pesos to the dollar was adopted in 1973. For the next decade the value of the peso gradually fell until it was trading at about 11 to the dollar in 1983.

The next three years saw the fall of the Marcos regime and the coming of Corazon Aguino into office through the so-called People Power Revolution. Given such events the value of the peso fell fairly sharply to a rate of about 20 to the dollar.

Further declines in the value of the peso continued in the late 1980s and 1990s, and during the past decade the exchange rate has varied between about 40 and 50 to the dollar. Despite the extravagance of the Marcos regime and its habit of accumulating ever increasing overseas debts, the Philippines never experienced hyperinflation similar to that which has occurred in a number of other third-world countries.

In 1985 radically new designs of bank notes were issued just as the rule of Ferdinand Marcos was coming to an end. The first issues of five-, 10-, and 20-peso notes of these types, in fact, still bore the signature of Marcos. It wasn’t until 1987 that newly designed 50- and 100-peso notes appeared, and by then Marcos and his wife Imelda were long gone. Despite this fact some Ang Bagong Lipunan notes were printed as late as 1986 or 1987.

By 1985 Imelda’s husband was already quite ill, and she may well have been the power behind the throne during the last year or so of the Marcos regime. Ferdinand Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989 at age 72, and in 1991 Imelda was allowed to return to the Philippines. Since then she has served as a congresswoman from her home island of Leyte. Despite the corruption and autocracy of his regime, Ferdinand Marcos still retains a substantial amount of respect and admiration in his home province of IIocos Norte.

Since 1985 the Philippines has used the same basic designs for its bank notes, although a new Central Bank seal was adopted in 1993. Notes for 500 pesos were added in 1987, for 1,000 pesos in 1991, and for 200 pesos in 2002. The 500-peso note depicts Benigno Aquino, Jr., who was jailed by Marcos for several years and was murdered under mysterious circumstances in 1983. Five- and 10-peso notes dropped in 1997, and the lowest denomination now in circulation is 20 pesos. Although the earlier issues of notes were not dated, annual dating of notes began in 1998, and so for each year there will probably be at least six new varieties to obtain if one wants to collect modern Philippine notes in this fashion.

Although many of the notes of the American period (1903-1944) are almost impossible to find in decent grades, the issues of the Republic of the Philippines are far more readily available, and they do offer the collector a beautiful and interesting series of items to collect.

More Resources:

• Subscribe to our Coin Price Guide, buy Coin BooksCoin Folders and join the NumisMaster VIP Program

2010 U.S. Coin Digest, The Complete Guide to Current Market Values, 8th ed.

State Quarters Deluxe Folder By Warmans

Standard Guide to Small-Size U.S. Paper Money, 1928 to Date

Strike It Rich with Pocket Change, 2nd Edition



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