Piloncitos: First coins in the Philippines

first coins in the philippines
First coins in the Philippines | @BangkoSentral via Photo by: Wyg Tysmans

Piloncitos: First coins in the Philippines

In celebration of this year’s National Heritage Month, the BSP features important pieces from its numismatic collection. In the photo are piloncitos, considered as the first coins in the Philippines.

Our country is naturally rich in gold, which was used in ancient times for barter rings, jewelry, and possibly, the first local coinage. Excavations have unearthed small cone-shaped ingots now referred to as piloncitos. These are similar in type to gold pieces found in Indonesia and Thailand from the 10th and 11th centuries. The Spanish in the 16th century reported Filipinos were experts at weighing and grading gold dust and ingots which were used as common mediums of exchange. From all indications, Filipinos had a sophisticated domestic economy and carried on extensive international trade with China and Southeast Asian countries even before the Spanish colonial era.

Piloncitos 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 www.bsp.gov.ph or email bspstore@bsp.gov.ph.

In celebration of History Month, the Museo ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas highlights the piloncitos, the first documented form of coinage in the Philippines.

Modern numismatists named these small nuggets of gold after the small sugar containers called pilon. Piloncitos were unearthed in various sites in Laguna de Bay, Bataan, Mindoro, Northern Mindanao, and the Pasig River.

Similar items were also found in Indonesia and Thailand. Piloncitos in the Philippines were distinct from their Southeast Asian counterparts because of the stamped baybayin symbol “MA.” Historians believed that “MA” was the shortened term for Ma-I or Ma-Yi, the ancient name of the Philippines.

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