Sunday, August 9, 2015

105. BARRILLA First Philippine Coin during the Spanish Colonial Period

Different types of Barrillas. Top left is a bronze, uniface specimen
dated 1728. The piece below is made of lead dated 1733
Above right is a copper piece dated 1743

There is some question about how the term  "barrilla" originated and when it came to mean fractional coin. The term appears in Spanish documents of the early 1760's. However, the first piece on which "barrilla" appears (misspelled "barilla") is a crude; thick, heavy unifaced bronze or copper piece dated 1728. The coin bears' the seal of Manila - a three-towered castle above a sea lion - incused in the center within a raised circle. Around the outside of the circle, the inscription reads: "BARILLA. ANO DE 1728." The first specimen was found by the eminent numismatist, Dr. Gilbert S. Perez, on  the grounds of the old University of Santo Tomas. Other specimens have been unearthed since then, but the piece remains a rarity in Philippines numismatics

Showing the reverses of 1733 and 1743 dated pieces,
respectively depicting a crude rendition of the Seal of Manila
The first historically documented copper coin made in the Philippines was the barrilla dated  1766. At that time, Don Domingo de la Sierra, senior regidor of the municipal council, requested authorization to produce these coins because of the scarcity of minor coinage in Manila. Sierra's request was granted, with the stipulation that only 5000 pesos' worth should be coined, and that these should be used only for petty payments. The coin is a small round copper, approximately 18 mm. in diameter. The design on the obverse is that of a castle within a circle in the center and' a crown on top, and the legend around reads: "CIUDAD D MAN. 1766". The reverse bears a crowned shield with a sea lion holding up a sword. The number" 1" is on the right of the shield, and on the left is the monogram "BA ", which can be interpreted as interlaced letters "B" and "A", or "B", "A", and "R". This coin had the value of one grana of a tomin, or 1/1 2th of a rea/. (The tomin was 1/8 of a peso, or equivalent to one real, and divisible into 12 granos). 

Some of my barrilla coins dated 1728 (bottom left), 1739 (bottom right ) and 1743 (rest of the coins)

Whatever or whenever the derivation of the term, the name "barrilla" became incorporated into the language of Philippine numismatics and even in local parlance, for today, the Tagalog word "bariya." meaning "small change" or minor coins, is an obvious carry-over from the past. When the  Ayuntamiento or Municipal Council of Manila made a second request for more barrillas for use in the provinces, the request was denied. Apparently the king, Carlos III the same Carlos responsible for the change away from the "Dos Mundos" design - did not approve of circulating in his dominions coins which did not bear the royal coat of arms. Instead, in 1769, he ordered that six thousands pesos' worth of silver cuartillas i.e.. fourths of reals, be minted in Mexico and sent to the Philippines. 

Source:  Piloncitos to Pesos by Angelita Ganzon de Legarda, M.D.

I am buying old Philippine coins if you have this and want to sell, email me at

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

104. VESTMENTS OF THE GOLDEN LEAF (Book on Philippine Cigarette Wrappers)

By Gemma Cruz Araneta
December 15, 2014

It was not the delightful tale of how Nicotiana Tabacum came to our shores in the pocket of a friar aboard a galleon that grabbed my attention but the stunning inventory of intricately rendered wrappers (read vestments) that fill this edifying volume. It may look like one, but VESTMENTS OF THE GOLDEN LEAF by Atty. Saul Hofileña,Jr, is not just a decorative book to adorn your coffee table.

The cigarette wrappers are classified according to provenance a device that allows one to trace the growth and expansion of the tobacco industry after it was demonopolized by the Spanish colonial government in 1881. With the Cagayan Valley as the main source of the golden leaves, Binondo as the center of manufacturing and trading, the industry engulfed Manila, then Bulacan, Pampanga, Bicol, and the Vizayas.
Local artists remain unknown but through the author’s magnifying glass, printers and lithographers have surfaced– Carmelo and Bauermann (one connected with Obras Públicas, the other with the government press), Oppel y Cia., Salvador Chofre, Mendezona, Chicote, Cacho Hermanos, Guillermo Partier– mostly foreigners established on Escolta, Carriedo,  and Azcarraga.

Atty. Hofileña included famous cases notably of Paul Meerkamp van Embden whose tobacco business became collateral damage during a World War. Rizal’s friend, Ariston Bautista of Germinal, sued Chan Chuico for copying his “La Intimidad” label. Alhambra Fábrica de Tabacos, Cigarillos y Picadura took Enrique Caruana of La Yebana to court over the use of the word “chorritos”.

Most of the traders were Chinese, but Filipino workers attempted to carve a niche. Katubusan (redemption), an early cooperative, was open to membership for only two pesos. Artist Jorge Pineda of Carmelo and Bauermann drew the Katubusan image, a young Filipina crowned with sampaguitas. It appeared on the “El Renacimiento” cover in 1910.

Vestments’ galore

by Gemma Cruz Araneta
December 22, 2014

In vestments of the golden leaf, authored by lawyer and historian Saul Hofileña Jr, there is relevant data about manufacturers, factory locations, porters, exporters, dealers, and procedures for registering trademarks recorded in Libros de Acuerdos. Scholars interested in tracing our economic history should go directly to this impressive book.

Interestingly, the tobacco monopoly created a demand for female labor—dobladoras, cortadoras, torcedoras, encajanadoras, kahistas. A full-page photo of the latter, seated on a rough wooden chair is but a glimpse of labor conditions then. However, they were treated to music while working, unlike their Cuban counterparts who preferred stories read aloud to them.

By far the most intriguing wrapper is “La Cubana” (Pedro Roxas, Calle Carvajal, Binondo) which boldly depicts a submarine exploding a ship, obviously the USS Maine , blown up at the Havana harbor to provoke the Spanish-American War. The USA blamed Spain but through his label, Roxas mutely revealed the facts.

The signature label “La Insular” carried a quality assurance in English, French, and Spanish; a veritable masterpiece, it rivals those delicate renditions of ancestral homes now covetred by collectors. A pity it no longer exists like the Fabrica de Tabacos Meisic which in 1875 employed 6,000 workers. Hofileña included plans of that fort-like structure which later became military barracks.

A thorough study of Hofileña’s “vestments” reveals how manufacturers lured different sectors in a relentless quest for market dominance. They used Rizal, local myths, Junoesque women in flowing robes against distant landscapes, classy Filipinas in native finery framed in Art nouveau designs reminiscent of ilustrado homes. Men were shown in military regalia or as dandies, muscled laborers, and farmers.

Dozens of wrappers showed cherubic babes, little boys and girls seated on crates of tobacco or at their mothers’ feet enjoying their first smoke. Shocking, to say the least. (

103. The First Philippine Republic & the United States Exhibit

The First Philippine Republic & the United States covers maps from the period of 1898, when the Americans arrived in the Battle of Manila Bay and the First Philippine Republic was established, to 1907, when the First Philippine National Assembly was convened.

 A must-see for map collectors and history students, the exhibit is an interesting and educational representation of early American colonial presence in the country. On display are not only century-old maps, but also books, photographs, lithographs, war medals, flags and other memorabilia pertaining to the Philippine-American War.

 "The exhibition was drawn from private collections and covers the formation of the First Philippine Republic in Malolos; the Battles of the Filipino-American War from the first shot near San Juan Bridge until the capture of President Emilio Aguinaldo in Palanan; the efforts of the United States to improve education, health, transportation, and governance to win the trust of Filipinos; until the organization of the Philippine Assembly (1907). 

The First Philippine Republic & the United States is presented by the Philippine Map Collectors Society in partnership with Yuchengco Museum in celebration of the Battle of Manila Bay and Philippine-American Friendship Day.

Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898  Map

The Malolos Congress

Aguinaldo's Revolutionary Money

Aguinaldo's Army Photos and Flag

Admiral George Dewey's Medals and Spanish American War Medals

Aguinaldo's Medals and the US 8th Army Medals

The Visit of Gordon Huber

Aguinaldo and his revolutionary forces

Roster of  US Volunteers in the Philippines

Map of the Philippines at the turn-of-the-century

Casualties of War Photos

Map of Central Luzon and Battle of Malolos, Bulacan photos

Battle of Laguna photos and Map of Island of Luzon

The Philippine American War

Battle for Nueva Caceres

Colorful Al Pueblo Filipino Poster

Photos and medals of the 1st Philippine Assembly.