September 29, 2008

Anting-Anting: The Sacred Money

An Anting-anting carved out of a defaced 1907-1910 US-Philippine peso

The “Anting-anting” or “Agimat” is the local version of magical amulets by the mythical heroes of the West. However, the story behind these relics is more than the usual swash-buckling portrayal in the modern day cinema. It is a significant part of our history because it embodies the Filipinos fighting spirit against a more advance opponent. “Anting-anting” fortifies the body against knives, bolos, or any bladed weapon, and otherwise makes it difficult for a bullet to penetrate the skin as it armor the body of whoever wear this talisman.

Historically, amulets played an important role to raise the combatants for several revolutions including the Katipunan. Most amulets were either made of cast brass, bronze, or lead and were either coated with gold or simply worn without finish. The power of the amulet does not come from the amulet itself but through the care and faith being applied by the owner himself through meditations or “orasyon” which were specifically performed only during every Fridays of the Holy Week.

However, not all amulets are made for such purpose. The astonishing discovery of amulets made out of cast Mexican silver reales baffled collectors as what was the purpose why these amulets were made. Some numismatist assumed that these amulets were made as a medal to commemorate a certain event, some other numismatist has a version that these amulets belongs to a secret society closed to the church, and other also said that these amulets were tokens of an underground fraternity.

There are two varieties of these amulets, the first one are cast Mexican 8 reales and the other are defaced small US-Philippine peso (1907-10) re-engraved and carved with intricate details. Among the two, the latter is scarce and very difficult to acquire in any condition. However, the designs are almost the same. Most are dated between 1001 to 1771 and with the image of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Family, St. Joseph, the Sun, and the crossed keys which symbolizes the Vatican of Rome.

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