fine details on the bangko sentral's 2014 commemorative coins

by now many of us may have come across newly-minted, limited edition 10- and 5-peso commemorative coins issued by the bangko sentral ng pilipinas in december last year. i got mine when i bumped into the employees of my bank on a street corner after i finished an early-evening run last wednesday. the BSP released two 5-peso coins and one 10-peso coin, each of which will only have 10 million pieces in circulation. that might seem like a lot of coins, but considering how many filipinos there are, only less than a tenth of the population will ever get to hold all three at any given time. so although these coins are meant for general circulation, it might be useful to keep one in mint condition, if you like like coins like i do.

one of the 5-peso coins is a tribute to filipinos working abroad. on the reverse (tails) side is a depiction of what i would assume is a filipino family travelling somewhere: there's a father pulling luggage, a mother carrying a backpack, and two children, a boy and a girl. above them towards the left is the silhouette of an airplane, and below that is the seal of the BSP. underneath all of them is its value. what's more interesting is what's on the obverse (heads) side. it depicts 8 filipinos donning different uniforms, which is oddly similar to an ad by STI which i've seen plastered on buses. there's a chef, a nurse, a welder, an engineer (well, he's wearing a hard hat, so he could also be an architect or a construction worker), a pilot, a doctor or a medical worker who's taking your blood pressure, and a man and a woman probably meant to represent all the other professions of filipinos in other parts of the world: care giver, IT specialist, domestic help, etc. around the rim of the coin are the inscriptions "republika ng pilipinas" on top and "bagong bayani" below, the latter being a line from "kahit konting awa": a song by nora aunor that was part of the soundtrack of "the flor contemplacion story". it is also how we refer to overseas filipino workers, who toil and sacrifice in strange parts of the world to help families back home. herself a bagong bayani, flor contemplacion was sentenced to death in singapore.

what's curious though is that design below the 8 filipinos occupying the lower quarter of the coin. it might just look like a random pattern, but these are actually words. a lot of people might go ahead and ignore what the design means, but i wanted to know what was there, so although i managed to see what's written, i'm sharing with you an image taken by my iPhone with the help of a macro lens attachment.

this is actually a non-exhaustive list of countries where overseas filipinos work: the "united states, saudi arabia, malaysia, UAE, canada": that's just on the first line. i find it interesting why the united arab emirates was shortened, but the USA was spelled out. there are 27 countries listed there (if you consider guam and hong kong countries), and i don't know how the order was determined, whether there is any statistical correlation as to the number of pinoys based there, or it was just an issue of space. check out this PDF from the commission on filipinos overseas.

the second 5-peso coin is a commemoration of the leyte gulf landing, which took place in 1944: 70 years ago if you consider the fact that the coin was circulated in 2014. on the obverse is a depiction of that famous scene of field marshal douglas macarthur walking in knee-deep waters on the shores of the leyte gulf, making good on his promise to return to the philippines. that same scene can be seen in palo, leyte, where gigantic sculptures of macarthur and other american military officers in their triumphant stance survived the onslaught of typhoon yolanda almost unscathed. most of us, having only taken a few courses on philippine history, only know his famous line "i shall return." that is not on the coin. since this shiny one commemorates his return, it prints instead on the upper rim of the reverse side his speech following his arrival, where he said: " i have returned. by the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on philippine soil – soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples." below that quote are 5 stars arranged in the insignia worn by american military generals of that rank, and underneath is the post macarthur held, his name, and signature. on the lower third is the BSP logo, the denomination, and another microscopic design which actually just says republika ng pilipinas.

these two 5-peso coins are a departure from the usual designs of philippine coins because the denomination is not always on the obverse side, and neither of them feature the face of a recognizable historical filipino hero. also, the design is not consistent, since "republika ng pilipinas", while appearing in all of them, is not always on the same side, and is not always the main inscription. but such is the case for all commemorative coins. going back to the obverse side of the macarthur 5-peso coin, similar microscopic letters are etched into the coin, and you need not squint to find out what it says as i'll tell you: "70 years leyte gulf landing" is printed repeatedly.

the 10-peso coin features the face of the brains of the katipunan: apolinario mabini. the current non-commemorative 10-peso coin which has been in circulation since 2001 features profiles of both mabini and andres bonifacio. now one might begin to ask why the first president of the republic does not have his own commemorative coin. actually, one was released in 2013, although the design was simpler compared to this one. there is also a quill on this side, to show just how prolific a writer mabini was. on the reverse side of the coin is another aspect of mabini that we've come to know: he was extremely smart, and also a paralytic. so he's basically sitting on what appears to be a wheelchair, a blanket over his legs, and on top of them an open book (a monument with the same depiction may be found at the lobby of the department of foreign affairs). along the upper left corner of the rim are the words "talino at paninindigan". the entire outer ring (the 10-peso coin consists of two types of metals: an aluminum and bronze center plug, and a copper and nickel outer ring) is etched with these traits of his in letters so small they just look like a pattern which if viewed in its entirety, resembles the fine lines of a feather (take note of the quill on the other side). the reverse also has the BSP logo, mabini's signature, and the fact that last year was the 150th anniversary of his birth. it should be pointed out that bonifacio's commemorative coin was issued also on his 150th year (rizal's 150th was in 2011, and one was issued as well), and contains the words "dangal at kabayanihan".

with all these intricate details engraved on these shiny, pretty, limited-edition commemorative coins, one might ask who is behind all these fine (literally) works of art, and while i don't know who that person is, i can tell you that he or she has left his or her mark on the coins. you've seen it before, but probably paid it little attention, but the artist's initials are there, usually beside the profiles, and always on the obverse side. i'm venturing a guess here but it looks like a stylized 'i' and 'f' or is some form of baybayin script. so there's my contribution to your daily dose of trivial fluff. i kind of enjoyed looking at these coins, and doing research on the possible history behind the design principles. if i've made a mistake i offer my apologies since i am not an expert on coins, commemorative or otherwise. i'm just another curious juan asking some unimportant questions.

i hope to write a follow-up entry on my small collection of currencies. i actually have some pretty old coins and rare bills stashed somewhere.