Monday, December 20, 2010

The Language of the Redesigned Philippine Currency

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has released the new design of Philippine currency which will be in circulation this December 2010. While it receive a lot of acclaim for its colorful and fresh designs, it also garnered some bit of criticism. These include errors in the geographical location of some of the tourist spots presented and inaccuracies in the portrayal of some of the animals and places featured within.

One of the criticisms I read in the many discussions about it in Facebook came from my best friend who just happens to be a big fan of Filipino discourse and literature. He questioned the inconsistent use of Filipino in the bills. If you will look at the designs of the bills below, you can clearly see the code switching -- Filipino in naming the denomination but English in identifying the various people, places, events and animals presented.

Above: The new design of the Php 500 bill featuring the faces of former President Corazon Aquino and Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in the front. The back shows the Palawan Subterranean River and the Blue-Naped Parrot which is a native of Palawan.

For my part, the code switching is okay for me. It serves two purposes, a double-edged sword in promoting the country to the world.

First, the use of Filipino is to maintain the bills' identity as Filipino. From the time of President Roxas, our currency has been labeled in Filipino for easy identification by the locals. Whether it be in Cebu or Baguio or in Davao.

Second, in the use of English, we have to understand the fact that our country is a magnet for foreign, not just domestic, tourism. We have foreigners from all over the world who come here and spend their money to experience and enjoy the beauty and culture of our beloved native land. Of course, they will have to exchange their foreign currency to Filipino. If we are to promote the country through our currency, it is only common sense that we promote it in a language that is understandable by all which is English.

Above: A specimen of the 1000 rupee bill from India with Mahatma Gandhi in front.

Other countries have no problem code switching between English and their native tongue in their currencies. One example is the Indian rupee above which utilizes both English and Hindi in marking specific parts of the currency.

Presenting our money in English does not make us less Filipino. Language, while part of our identity as a nation, is also important in communication. Language must be flexible depending on who you are speaking to. Language is dynamic. It changes over time and people invent new languages for better understanding. In the end, whatever the language is the most important is for people to understand the message instead of getting the wrong impression.

Quod ut est meus cuspis visum.

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