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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Other Notable Ilonggos

The Ilonggo Who Designed The Early Philippine Coins







Melecio Figueroa (1842 - 1903) 








The Early Philippine Coins Designed By Engraver Melecio Figueroa





Do you want to know who was the lady engraved in our first silver coins?

The lady who was celebrated unfailingly in an early Philippine coin was no other than Mrs. Blanca Figueroa Opinion, the daughter of the artist engraver whom he thought to be an ideal model. She is the wife of retired Colonel Glicerio Opinion, and daughter of the leading artist, engraver and nationalist,  Melecio Figueroa y Magalona. It was said that, when Melecio Figueroa, the leading engraving artist of the nation at the time was assigned to design the image in the coins, it seems like he was lured to see his daughter  Blanca, who was only seven years old at that time to get an inspiration. 

Blanca, whose mother hails from Madrid, Spain named Enriqueta Romero has a long hair and bears a classic splendor. 

Her father who is fond of the baby Blanca who was born in a ship returning to the Philippines from Spain could not take off his sights away from this vision and imagination of what will be the form of Blanca when she becomes a young lady. 

When he formed a picture in his mind of the young Blanca as a young lady, he started to engrave the picture in the coin. He put the portrait of Blanca in a philosophical environment. Blanca symbolizes the nation - strong, splendid, healthy and productive. The young lady is standing beside a hammer and anvil that symbolizes labor and the prevailing unifying factor - the meaningful Filipino volcano.

The more you look deeply closer to the image in the coin the more the economic philosophy is involved as well as the symbolic inspiration. It is a known fact that only an artist like Figueroa an extraordinary genius can create this kind of lofty masterpiece.

Born in Arevalo, Iloilo on May 24, 1842 to the couple Rufo Figueroa and Gabriela Magbanua, Melecio, who from a young age as a child shows an extraordinary skills in art, was chosen as one of the two pensionado of the Spanish government that were sent to other countries for further apprenticeship.

It was written in the records that in 1871, Melecio Figueroa went to Madrid as a scholar of the ayuntamiento. He enrolled at the Academia Superior de Bellas Artes. He always won medals for modeling or carving about nature and he also earned excellent mark or grade in his full knowledge of anatomy.

Due to this display of exceptional expertise, he was sent by the Academy to other schools in Europe. He landed in Rome, the center of artistic movement during that time.

In Rome, he was appointed to do the bust of a prince - D'Odelikaski and because his creation is extremely good - this image of Figueroa was included in "Who's Who" by Artistico-Circulo Internacional de Roma.

In 1875, during an exposition in Barcelona, he received another medal for his entry and the inscription inscribed was: "En el mundo, DEL ARTE, ES YA POPULAR LA FAMA DE FIGUEROA."

As a patriot and nationalist, he was always invited by the group of Filipino Propaganda Movement in Madrid to help them express their ideas. In his speeches, Graciano Lopez-Jaena of La Solidaridad and Liga Filipina devoted an excessive honor to the genius and patriotism of Figueroa. Figueroa was also busy in the movement of Hispano-Filipino Circulo in Madrid.

In 1878 in recognition for his unmatched skills, he received a scholarship and pension from the child of a Spanish philanthropist.

In 1893 when he was tasked upon the responsibility as chief engraver of the National Treasury.

In 1895, his entry in Exposicion Regional de Filipinas has earned widespread admiration of the people that led for him being asked to be the designer of Filipino coins.

When the Americans ruled the country at the turn of the century, Figueroa was recalled and asked to design and engrave the silver coins of the Philippine currency.

At that moment he found inspiration by looking at his daughter Blanca. The coins were first minted in 1903. A month after the coins were released in circulation, Figueroa died. He passed away on July 30, 1903. 

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