April 21, 2011

Holy Week Special: The Sacred Money Part II

Holy week or “Mahal na Araw” as we call it, is a very special occasion among Filipino Christians as we recall and dramatize the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Among the traditions that we inherited from the Spaniards is the “pabasa” as a unique practice among the local Christians where the “Passion of Christ” is sang rather than read for the whole day within a week. Famous it is that even our colonizer admires such practice.

This is also a special occasion among the practitioners of witchcraft, faith healing, and holders of talisman as they re-energized their powers and learn more from their peers thru gatherings or conventions that are especially held every Good Friday of the Lenten season. As a numismatist and historian, talisman or anting-anting amulet never fails to amaze me because of its uniqueness and the mystery behind.

The Sacred Money or Agimat is a very unique aspect of numismatic that can only be found in the Philippines. Mostly either made or casted in bronze and brass, and rarely in silver or other precious metals, these amulets mostly appeared during the period of revolution from Spain and Philippine-American War.

Among the amulets, the silver amulets and those made with other precious metals baffle historians and numismatic researchers alike because it appeared from nowhere and neither without recognizable purpose except that it depicts face value in peso. Studying historical records, the denomination was first introduced in the Philippines during the later reign of Queen Isabela II of Spain and it was first introduced in the form of Gold. The “Un Peso” denomination became acceptable in silver as Spain slid in political and economic turmoil during the reign of Alfonso XIII when the one year type “Un Peso” dated 1897 reached the Philippines during the last years of Spain in the colony. Therefore, we know for a fact that these amulets as most historians agree were first struck during that same period.

Some numismatists and local coin dealers suspect that most of these amulets were manufactured in the Southern Tagalog region particularly in Batangas were there were many silver smiths during that period and some even argue that it was minted by several Masonic organizations to commemorate or celebrate an important event. But why most of these bear the dates of 1001, 1770, and 1771?

The date 1001 is particularly significant with the Moslems and not with the Christians particularly made famous by the story “The Arabian Nights”. Meanwhile, the date 1771 was not technically the last minting of the famous coinage “dos mondos” and in relation to the country’s history does not connect to any memorable event of the same year.

In mathematical analysis, 1001 is the first and equal symmetrical number with equal number “1” and “0”. We can even see a distinctive "personality" in these various kinds of number behavior complementing three personality groupings.

The vertical type (based on unconscious specialisation of personality) complements the difference (i.e. of given number and reverse) which is always divisible by 9 (i.e. in base 10).

The horizontal type (based on conscious specialization of personality) complements the sum (i.e. of given number and reverse with even total of digits) which is always divisible by 11.

The diagonal type (based on both conscious and unconscious specialization of personality) complements the difference (i.e. of given number and odd total of digits) which is always divisible by 99.

That will point us to the Holy Family or Sagrada Familia which is always placed either on the reverse of the 1001 or above it. The 1001 therefore is not a date but a representation of psychological and personality perfection.

There are also numerous symbols included in the medal that are foreign in origin like the crossed keys which is the symbol of the Vatican, the Sun’s face which can be found on the coinage of South and Central America like the Rio Plata of Colombia, the crossed-wing Eagle with a snake which is from Mexico, and the Cap and Rays which is also from the same region.

New findings also suggest that these medals / coins were not defaced 8 reales or USPI peso but made and struck out of several distinct dies as suggested by their weights and dimensions. Most of them weighs between 30 to almost 40 grams with measurement ranging from 35 to 42 millimeter making me suspicious otherwise that these amulets were struck using not only of silver but a combination of gold and silver that could have made it heavier than coins of the same size. (to be continued)

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