The Peso Chronicles (Part 1): Secret Stories Behind the 20-Peso Bill
“These are the country’s window to the world…”
That’s what our beloved President think about the new Philippine peso bills released by BSP last year. But what exactly does that statement means? Well, we can only assume that he was pertaining to those newly-overhauled Philippine peso bills as a potential symbolism of our rich history and culture, a banner that will tell the world stories of patriotism and nationalistic fervor, laying in the ground the foundation and blueprint of what it is really like to be a true-blue Filipino. But nowadays, do we still value those faces and images carved in our peso bills as essential parts of our own cultural identities? Or are we still taking those things for granted, believing that OUR money ONLY exists to provide us with our basic commodities and sustain our greed and selfish ambitions? That piece of valuable paper folded within your wallet has a lot of stories to tell but if you really loathe Philippine history and culture, then your eyes will always be blind and your ears will always be deaf for the wonderful secrets and stories our Philippine peso bills have been itching to tell.
The Peso Chronicles is a series of articles written to put the limelight to some undiscovered treasures and untold stories etched in our new Philippine peso bills. These are not facts as superficial as the Philippine peso bills’ designs which were swarmed with criticisms or certain glitches printed on these bills or those newly-designed special fraud-proof security features. Rather, we will try to look at our Philippine peso bills as if they are open books full of history, culture, and lessons to be learned.
PART I: The New 20 Peso Bill.
If you watched Schindler’s List, then you will probably be surprised that this Steven Spielberg masterpiece has a Pinoy version of its story, minus the movie. Yes, our very own Manuel L. Quezon, aside from becoming the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth, also took a risk and saved almost 1, 200 Jews (the same with the famous Schindler’s List) from the wrath of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during the Holocaust. Unlike the U.S. and other parts of the world, he established an “Open Door Policy” in the Philippines which allowed 1,000 Jews per year to enter the Philippine territories and seek refuge here. Although he projected that the said policy would absorb 10, 000 European Jews, only a meager 1, 200 survived and made it to Manila in 1939.
This amazing feat was said to be influenced by the Frieder brothers (Alex, Philip, Herbert and Morris), who at that time, were Jewish businessmen based in Manila and were regular poker buddies of the late President Quezon. According to history, the Frieders decided to ask the help of their poker buddies to let the Philippines become a haven for the fleeing Jews after they heard harrowing stories of persecuted and annihilated Jews in Shanghai and Germany.
Using his influence and altruism, Quezon was able beat all the odds to open our doors for those poor Jews despite anti-semitic Filipinos in his
administration opposing the proposal because they considered Jews to be “Communists and schemers” bent on “controlling the world”. In a letter written in August of 1939, Alex Frieder wrote of Mr. Quezon’s response: “He assured us that big or little, he raised hell with every one of those persons… He made them ashamed of themselves for being a victim of propaganda intended to further victimize an already persecuted people.”
This story of the Manila rescue was recounted by Frank Ephraim in his book, “Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror” (University of Illinois Press, 2003).
An “Open Doors” monument was unveiled last June 21, 2009 at the Rishon Lezion Holocaust Park in central Israel in recognition of the role of the Filipinos, specifically the late President Manuel L. Quezon, in helping the Jews in their darkest moments during the Holocaust. According to the Israel embassy:
The “Open Doors” monument, which is the first Philippine monument to rise in Israel, commemorates the courage, hospitality and the determination of the Philippine Government through President Manuel L. Quezon to give humanitarian support for the European Jews seeking refuge from the Holocaust in the 1930s.
Banaue Rice Terraces is Losing its Sparkle
Filipinos consider Banaue Rice Terraces as the “Eight Wonder of the World” and one of our country’s most breathtaking landmarks. But this colossal masterpiece, which was carved by the indigenous Ifugaos of the Cordillera some 2, 000 years ago using their own primitive tools, is slowly experiencing environmental degradation, robbing its former sparkle that has brought astonishment to local and foreign tourists alike. One reason for this phenomenon is the modern Ifugaos’ lack of motivation to use the rice terraces in doing their traditional farming, as the hospitality industry has been found to be more lucrative and rewarding compared to the arduous task of rice farming. The result is the gradual erosion of the characteristic “steps”, which need constant reconstruction and care. In addition to that, a statement released by the Senate last December 6, 2011 cited a report from the Philippine Rice Research Institute which said that worms had damaged the roots of germinated rice seeds and eroded the terraces by digging out their walls. It likewise said that super typhoons Pedring and Quiel, which ravaged the country this year, had reportedly destroyed 102,663 cubic meters of the terraces (www.tempo.com.ph).
On the other hand, it is good news that the government is taking this issue seriously. According to reports, the Senate has adopted a resolution urging government agencies to work together to save the Ifugao or Banaue Rice Terraces from total degradation. Senate Resolution 650, authored by Senator Francis Pangilinan, expresses the “sense of the Senate…to urge government agencies to work collaboratively to save the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras from degradation”. Let us keep our fingers crossed and hope that a national effort will eventually bring back Banaue’s sparkle. In the end, we don’t want another cultural heritage to be just a “part of our history”, do we?
World’s Most Expensive Coffee is from Philippines’ Civet Cat POOP!
I’m telling you right now that you’re not dreaming! When I say POOP, it means excreted waste, but not in the case of Asian palm civet cat, whose poop is widely processed to create the world’s most expensive coffee called Kofi Luwak or also known as Coffee Alamid/ Kapeng Alamid. This coffee is being sold for as much as $100 a cup around the world! For a coffee, it’s quite expensive, but the process of harvesting this one-of-a-kind coffee begs to justify its price tag. Palm civet cat (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) also known as “Toddy Cat” can be found in the Cordillera region and some parts of Mindanao. In the Philippines the Civet cats are omnivores. Civets in other parts of the world are usually carnivorous. And if you are wondering how the kapeng alamid is being processed, here’s a brief overview from http://cebuexperience.com:
a. Before the bean becomes civet coffee a wild animal must process it. The Asian Palm Civet is
responsible for providing the Coffee Alamid. The Civet is said only to eat the best coffee bean.
b. Their enzymes ferment the coffee bean and most of the bean is excreted in its waste. Until the Civet eats and excretes the bean, it is just a normal coffee bean. This is the essential step for a bean to become Coffee Alamid.
c. The civets digest the flesh of the coffee beans but excretes the beans inside. Before they are deposited on the forest floor, the Civet’s stomach enzymes do their magic on the beans providing the civet coffee its esteemed aroma and flavor.
That’s the wonder of Coffee Alamid; you don’t have to use some expensive machines to complete a certain step of coffee-making because you have nature to make it for you. I wonder what the world’s most expensive coffee that came from a cat poop tastes like…