Barrilla | @BangkoSentral via Photo by: Wig Tysmans

In celebration of this year’s National Heritage Month, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) features important pieces from its numismatic collection. In the photo is the barrilla, where the present-day term “barya” or small change comes from.

One of the greatest monetary problems during the years of colonization was the acute shortage of fractional coins. There were barrillas made of copper, bronze, and silver, though unofficially minted, were circulated serving in lieu of fractional coins in certain localities particularly the provinces bordering Manila. The earliest of these was the uniface copper barrilla of 1728.

Eventually, the Ayuntamiento (municipal council of Manila) requested for authority to produce copper coins, resulting in the production of the barrilla of 1766 which was the first historically documented coin struck in the Philippines (bottom right coin).

The 1766 barrilla reveals a refined stamping compared to earlier coins. Its face shows a crowned emblem with a sea lion holding a sword and a number indicating its value, while the back indicates the text “ciudad d man” (City of Manila) and its year.

Barrilla and other important pieces in the BSP’s numismatic collection are featured in the recently launched Yaman: History and Heritage in Philippine Money. For more information, please visit or email

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