The History of Philippine Money Throughout the Years

evolution of Philippine Money and its history

Philippine money is old. Like, really old. We’re talking thousands-of-years-old old. The History of Philippine money has been something like a petri dish in a science lab. The cultures and technologies of the time have molded it into what we use today. Money has evolved to reflect the changing needs of society, which would explain why we no longer use seashells as currency and why extremely large stones are not in circulation at this time.


Bartering is a system of direct exchange of goods or services for other goods or services without using money. Bartering is one of the oldest methods of commerce, and it is said to have been used by prehistoric tribes and societies in the Philippines. Before the advent of coinage, the people in ancient times resorted to barter trade when acquiring commodities or products from other communities. They would offer what they had in exchange for what they needed.

A primitive way of barter trade was through the direct exchange where there was no standard as regards quantity and value. A common method was for one party to offer an article for appraisal by the other party who would then give his own article with a different worth but agreed upon by both parties as an acceptable equivalent.

Gold and silver coins

The first coins used in the history of Philippine money were silver pesos from Spain. However, prior to that, gold and silver coins were also used around the world as currency. They were standardized: gold coins weighed around 8 grams and contained 90% pure gold; Chinese silver dollars weighed about 27 grams and contained 90% pure silver. These precious metals continued to be used until paper money started being printed in Europe in the 17th century.

Chinese coins

Chinese coins were introduced to the Philippines in the 14th century by Chinese immigrants, who would go on to become the first permanent settlers in our country. The oldest known coins used in the Philippines were minted no later than AD 1595 under China’s Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). These objects of exchange were made of bronze and covered with square holes made to be tied onto strings. They were called cash during that time. This early currency was widely accepted before Spanish colonization, but not all communities used them. As a matter of fact, there are still numerous ethnic groups in countries such as China, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam who do not use cash at all. In addition to serving their original purpose as means of transaction, these Chinese coins also became a big part of Filipino jewelry making even up to this day! Necklaces called paktongs or “buckles” are usually made from old Chinese coins strung together using thick threads or wires that hold the coin together through its hole. This tradition has been carried on for generations and can still be practiced today by those interested in appreciating the culture of our ancestors.

Mexican gold coins

The obverse of the coin bears the Mexican coat of arms, eagle, and cactus standing on a rock and holding a serpent in its beak. The legend “Empire Mexicano” appears around the upper perimeter, with “Diez Pesos” taking up the rest of the available space. The reverse shows the denomination within an open wreath, with two decorative feathers on each side. “1878 Mo M”, which stands for [M]int mark and assayer’s initials, is inscribed below.

Spanish and Filipino currency

The Spanish peso was introduced into the history of Philippine money in the late 18th century, replacing a variety of currencies used by the Spanish Empire. Each peso was made up of eight reales; to make a change, coins were cut into halves or quarters (with the quarter known as a cuartillo). The first Filipino currency under American rule came in 1901 with the introduction of the peseta, followed by the centavo in 1903 and two versions of silver coins. The next year saw more versions of silver coins, plus gold and silver certificates. In 1904, an additional series of notes was issued and also included certificates.

Spanish colonial peso (1565-1898)

The Spanish currency was the de facto currency of the Spanish colonies in the Americas and the Philippines for almost three centuries (1565-1898). The Spanish pesos were called peso or pesos duros, but they had different names depending on where they were minted. The first independent minting of gold coins took place in 1732, after which silver coins followed in 1773. The coins were originally stamped as “8 reales” (“real” being a unit of currency), but within decades, the word “peso” replaced “real”. The first denomination to be officially denominated as “peso” was Mexico’s 8 reales coin; it later became Mexico’s standard denomination.

Philippine peso (1898-1899)

The Philippine peso, also known as the Spanish dollar or the Mexican dollar, was the official currency of the Philippines from 1852 to 1946. It was subdivided into 8 reales (Spanish) and 100 centavos (Spanish). The Philippine peso replaced a variety of currencies that were circulating prior to its introduction. The earliest coinage used in what would be considered the modern-day Philippines were Mexican silver coins that circulated after they were introduced by Spanish conquistadors in 1521. These coins gradually went out of circulation with the exception of the gold doubloon which remained legal tender until the mid-19th century.

In 1837, Guillermo Llanera introduced a coin made from “native copper” called pistahan. By this time, nearly all circulating silver coins had left the country due to Spain’s protectionist trade policy.

Read Also: The New 1,000 Peso Polymer Bill

In 1852, Spain introduced a special issue two peseta coins for use in their colonies including the Philippines and Guam due to international demand for silver caused by an increasing number of international trade using silver as currency rather than gold. In this special issue, two peseta coin was denominated in four reales and one peso fuerte equal to two pesetas and were often called two-peseta pieces by Filipinos while foreigners simply referred to them as “Philippine 2½ Piastres”. Their issuance continued until 1854 when they were replaced by regular issues based on those issued by other countries with similar monetary standards such as Mexico and Peru.

First Philippine Republic (1899-1901)

The First Philippine Republic was founded in 1899 after General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the country’s independence from Spain. It established a dictatorial government headed by President Aguinaldo as both head of state and head of government. He exercised legislative powers and appointed the heads of the executive departments, subject to confirmation by a unicameral legislative body called the Malolos Congress. The main source of revenue for this government came from revenues collected from towns (now called cities) and provinces through their own local governments.

It was during this period that the Katipunan, in its effort to gain support for their revolutionary goals, created a monetary system that used paper currency with denominations ranging from 5 centimos to 100 pesos. These were first issued on January 6, 1899 under the direction of Apolinario Mabini, whose portrait still appears on some Philippine money bills today. The war between Filipino revolutionaries and American forces raged on until 1901 when no further supplies could be delivered due to military operations conducted by American troops around Manila Bay.

American occupation of the Philippines (1901-1935)

As the political situation in the Philippines developed, so did the currency. In 1901, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 51, a series of laws governing property taxes and treasury notes (notes issued by a country that are not backed by assets).

In 1902, with pressure from Washington to establish a legislature for Filipinos themselves, Taft created and Congress approved the establishment of The First Philippine Assembly. The body would be elected from districts established in all parts of the archipelago except Muslim Mindanao. There would be an equal number of representatives from each region regardless of population size, but each districted area would have at least one representative. This was intended to make sure that sparsely inhabited areas were represented in government just like densely populated ones. The assembly officially convened on October 16th, 1907 in Manila’s old Legislative Building (now the National Museum). During their first session, they passed Act No. 1639, which called for the establishment of three banks: The Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), which was to function as a commercial bank owned primarily by foreign investors; The Philippine National Bank (PNB), which was intended to provide credit for farmers; and The Insular Bank of Asia and America (IBAA), which was to serve Filipino investors exclusively. As well as creating these three banks they also passed several laws establishing both national and provincial governments. All these acts required public funds that could only be raised through taxation and loans using treasury notes as collateral.

The Commonwealth Era (1935-1945)

The Commonwealth era is a period of transition from American colonial rule to independence. It involves the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, which is also known as the Second Philippine Republic. The commonwealth period was between 1935-and 1945. In 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established by a constitution written by Filipinos with American approval and assistance. The commonwealth period included two phases: (1) from 1935-1941 prior to World War II when there was autonomy under Manuel L Quezon and (2) from 1941-1945 during wartime occupation by Japan and when Jose P Laurel took over as president after an election. During this time, Japanese forces occupied much of the Pacific region, including all of Southeast Asia except for Australia and New Zealand.

In addition to establishing a national currency system and developing infrastructures such as roads and railroads, one goal of this period was to prepare for Philippine independence in 1946 after 10 years under U.S. colonial rule during which they enjoyed many freedoms like being able to elect their own officials and having freedom of speech

World War II occupation period (1945-1946)

During the Japanese occupation period, the Japanese government-issued fiat money to finance its war with the Allies. The Japanese military issued fiat money to Filipinos in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 50 centavos and 1, 5, 10, and 100 pesos. The Central Bank of the Philippines was closed upon the arrival of Japan in 1942. At this time, Manila was declared an “open city” and all U.S.-Philippine currency was declared worthless.

The Third Republic of the Philippines (1946-1965)

The Philippine peso became the country’s official currency, replacing the Japanese occupation notes. In 1967, it was replaced by the English-speaking name “peso” which had been used as early as 1852 when the first coin known as 1 peso was issued by Spain. Philippine pesos were printed and circulated in 1946 and continued to be issued by the Central Bank of the Philippines until 1952 when it was replaced by the newly established Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. The Peso would remain legal tender until 1967 with a fixed value of 2 Pesos = 1 US Dollar.

In 1963, a new design series was introduced featuring historical figures and events in Philippine history on banknotes, making them among some of the most beautiful money bills ever produced in this part of Asia and probably even in the whole world.

The Marcos Era (1965-1986)

In 1965, the Central Bank of the Philippines issued a new series of banknotes to commemorate President Ferdinand Marcos’ inauguration. The new Philippine money bills were called “Ang Bagong Lipunan Series.” The denominations included P1, P5, P10, P20, and P50 notes.

The obverse sides of these notes all featured portraits of then-President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Romualdez Marcos (the latter was the Governor of Metro Manila). Other than those two images, other designs found in the Ang Bagong Lipunan Series were themes taken from Philippine history. These themes include:

● Filipino heroes: Jose Abad Santos (former Chief Justice), Corazon Aquino (former President), Emilio Aguinaldo (former President), Andres Bonifacio (revolutionary leader), Antonio Luna (military general)
● Philippine national symbols: carabao or water buffalo, coconut tree, nipa hut or bahay kubo, and

Banaue Rice Terraces

The money we encounter today is but a modern variation of a history that dates back to ancient times. Money also evolved due to cultural shifts and technological advances that allowed for easier trade between countries—and as you may already know, trade is a key part of the global economy. As a result, our current currency—paper money and coins—is actually a modern variation of an ancient history that dates back to around 1200 B.C., when money basically consisted of goods that were bartered for goods or services (think livestock).

Read Also: How to Save Money Effectively