Philippines: Filipinos welcome new year with new banknotes

Photo from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

Filipinos are fond of new things, from the newest gadgets, clothes, food craze and music. Especially at this time of the year – Christmas – where families come together to share the holidays with gifts, food and simply being together. Things pick up when after Christmas, everyone prepares to greet the coming new year, heavily influenced by Chinese beliefs, Filipinos even crave more for new things that are supposed to bring in good fortunes.

The Philippine Central Bank is not to be left out as it rolled out a set of new generation bank notes. It features not only improved security measures to combat counterfeits, but more so it heralds a new design highlighting historical events, figures in history and tourist spots in the country.

At first the public was bedazzled by the newly designed notes; it seems that despite the string of recent brouhahas, there is something to new to greet the new year with for a change.

As Robbie, The Creative Dork puts it succinctly:

After the whole Philippine Brand debacle, it’s great to see that some people are going in the right direction for a change. Although I might have some sentimental issues with the current banknotes’ design since I pretty much grew up with it, but I’m open to change as long as it’s for the better.

However, the “oohs” and “aahs” quickly evaporated and were replaced by criticisms.

Elijah Bringas spots a strong resemblance of the new Philippine banknotes with a foreign one and comments on the choice of symbols used:

And now the the much anticipated 2011 Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Banknotes which hauntingly look like the Euro Banknotes. I wonder why they did put a blue-naped parrot at the back of the new ₱500 bill instead of our national bird, the Philippine Eagle. And in the ₱200 bill, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been replaced with Bohol's Chocolate Hills and our very own Tarsier.

Ang Dabawenyo expresses a bit of a heartache as the new banknotes seems to have forgotten about his home island of Mindanao:

I’m happy that the new banknotes are promoting Philippine heritage sites / tourism highlights. But, no Davao? Ok, there are only 6 banknotes and hundreds of Philippine destinations to choose from, but, nothing from Mindanao was considered at all? Also, why wasn’t the national bird included? The Philippine Eagle represents one of the country’s most laudable efforts in environmental conservation, and yet…

That's not all. The strongest criticisms about the new banknotes were from geography enthusiasts and experts alike. Take this dissection of the supposed geographical errors in the new currency notes on New Media Philippines:

While many expressed their satisfaction with the new bills, a few people are expressing their disappointment in the mislocation of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean Park and the Tubbataha Reefs in the P500 and P1000 bills. Errors that the government, or at least the BSP, should have seen.

From the local and geographical, let's move on to the political. Blogger and journalist Tonyo Cruz writing for the Asian Correspondent opined that the new banknotes are a symbol of leaving behind a dark era:

The new banknotes also bear the signature of President Benigno Aquino III, which is a refreshing change from nine years of seeing former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s signature on Philippine money.

Divine Reyes at NewsBytes2010 on the other hand pokes at the Aquinos who dominates the new 500 Peso bill:

Honestly, I like the designs and the use of RP tourists attractions pictures at the back of a peso bill.

But then again, why only change the banknotes now?

And I find it self-serving the inclusion of Mrs. Corazon Aquino on 500 peso bill. I wonder what is the basis of BSP on choosing personalities to be published on our peso bill.

Well, the Aquino couple have their best smile on the picture…Is it because that their son is the signatory of the banknotes?

Just asking.

Cocoy over at laments at how, once again, media has made a bonanza of these seeming shallow kinks on the new banknotes:

While the issues raised by critics of the new bill on the one hand have legitimate concerns. Hey, this is our currency we're talking about, if there are errors, best to catch them now. The media has once more in this matter blown it out of proportion. The media would like us to believe there are things insidious. Blame it on the need for more eyeballs. This currency war is much ado about nothing.

Why can't the media focus on stories like the Ombudsman and the deal struck with General Garcia? Why can't the media focus its attention on the PNP's and the NBI's lack of investigative prowess? Why can't we talk about the merits of bond swap and currency devaluations? Explain it to the people in the streets, in a fashion that we can all understand? Too highbrow? Maybe then we get to talk about real currency wars and not made up ones. This is an indictment of mainstream media, and the kind of stories we are telling.

In the end though, we go back to Tonyo Cruz who asks the most profound question with regards the new banknotes:

Would Filipinos have more money in 2011 or just enjoy the new designs from afar?

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