World War II was raging hot and heavy in 1942. United States troops in the Pacific were being dealt devastating defeats. Loss of the Philippine Islands was one of the most crucial events. The Islander’s struggle for survival under Japanese domination was a heroic and often tragic drama that became chronicled by a large group of paper money that was issued by the Filipino people to help preserve some semblance of an economy.
When President Queson was forced to leave the Philippines in 1941, he foresaw the difficulties that might arise in regard to the currency problem. His government therefore authorized an issue of twenty million pesos in emergency money for Cebu as temporary capital of the free Philippines. What he failed to foresee was the growth of the guerrilla movement and the difficulties of communication, which would force the local underground to issue unauthorized currency as an emergency measure.
The emergency Philippine currency was at first legal tender only in the unoccupied areas. Later the money was accepted everywhere. How these notes were printed makes an absorbing story. There were no printing facilities, hardly any paper and even less ink. Skill and ingenuity arise in times like those; however crude the methods, the notes were printed. Primitive wood blocks served as printing presses, and hastily prepared native dye was used as ink. As for paper, anything handy served the purpose. Wrapping paper, ledger books, old newspapers, ballots and office forms…any paper that was available was pressed into service.
Iloilo was the largest province on Panay Island and the spot where President Queson set up temporary headquarters early in 1942 to direct various phases of the resistance movement, including authorization of emergency currency money. Notes were issued for Iloilo City from 1941 through 1944 by the Philippine National Bank, and they were apparently accepted in other unoccupied areas.
The Iloilo notes are among the best prepared and printed of all the Philippine Emergency money. Even so, they seem crude by any standards. In 1942 attractive designs were added to the notes to make them distinctive. A Filipino native is shown on the Two Pesos note; a portrait of General Douglas Mac Arthur is on the Five Pesos note; Philippine President Manuel Queson is on the Ten Pesos note, and a portrait of President Franklin D. Roosavelt enhances the Twenty Pesos bill.
Back the car up! Did I say “Roosavelt”? Yes, that is exactly how the printing reads. In their haste to produce the best bills possible under adverse conditions, they failed to check the spelling of the most significant person pictured on the notes, and hundreds of the misspelled pieces got into circulation. The error was eventually corrected, and now in calmer times we can look back and even get a chuckle out of one of the lesser misfortune of the war. One that created a very special and unusual collectors’ treasure.