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The Batangas and Nueva Ecija Medals of the 19th Century

Two medals acquired in the past year have become a welcome addition to a growing Spanish-Philippine medal collection and have remained so much of a mystery. I've searched for any resources or research material online for historical data on these two medals. Still, I only got a website about establishing a "Batangas Cattle Fair" in 1865. Its source referred me to the Portal de Archivos Españoles1 (Portal of Spanish Archives) of the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte where three pages of a handwritten document of the Spanish decree establishing the cattle fair was uploaded. All twenty-five pages of the decree are uploaded on the portal, where the words "Establecimiento de una feria anual de ganados en Lipa" should be used in the search form provided on the site. The other information, probably the most important, came from

the PNAS Monograph Number 20 from November 1980 in an article by Dr. Quinto Fortich Oropilla, M.D. It was the same monograph that provided most of the information for a blog I wrote more than a year ago about the medals associated with the creation of the Sociedad, which was simultaneously published in the 1st issue (Vol. 1, No. 1) of the Bayanihan Collector's Club (BCC) Exposition, pages 56-59. If you recall, Oropilla talked about Governor-General Don Jose Basco y Vargas' attempt to spur economic reforms to free the economy from dependence on Chinese and Mexican trade. Against this backdrop, King Carlos III issued a decree to create the Sociedad Economica de Amigos del Pais, or the "Economic Societies of Friends of the Country." But it wouldn't be until more than 80 years later that these two mysterious medals would have any relevance, which was connected to the Sociedad and the current economic situation in Spain and its colonies in the late 19th century.

In the PNAS monograph, Oropilla discussed how the Sociedad attempted to spur economic growth by creating "agricultural contests and exhibitions" in its colony by awarding seven prizes to the best exhibitors at a fair in Batangas. According to Oropilla, this fair was on December 22, 1866, about the same time the documents mentioned earlier about the Batangas Cattle Fair were held. This Batangas medal seems to have been the medal awarded during this cattle fair

for the Fair's best exhibitors in different industries: "for cows with their calves, for the two finest mares with their colts, for the best ordinary product of cotton or abaca for common use as garments of the people, for the best silk fabrics, for makers of hats or petacas, and the horse-races." The medal's obverse had the words "PROVINCIA DE BATANGAS" written around the obverse and the year "1867" inscribed in the middle, surrounded by two palm branches tied by a ribbon that flowed smoothly on both sides. The word "FILIPINAS" is proudly stamped at the bottom of the obverse, which is not surprising given that designs using the word "FILIPINAS" were common after the start of the Manila Mint in 1861.

The reverse had "PREMIO A LA INDUSTRIA," loosely translated as "INDUSTRY AWARD," boldly written on the center, surrounded by a wreath tied by a more intricate ribbon in the middle. The medal has a diameter of 38mm; however, its weight was not recorded before NGC slabbed it; but the medal feels much heavier than a typical medal with the same diameter. This is probably the first "proof medal" issued during this period and is only one of two Batangas late 19th-century proof medals ever issued. The first one seen in the wild was from the collection of Alfonso Sito Garcia, which was graded PR58 and sold three months ago in Stacks & Bowers for $4,320.

The other medal is an earlier 1864 Nueva Ecija silver medal with nice toning on both the obverse and the reverse. It has the same diameter as the Batangas proof medal as both measured 38mm, but the feels much lighter than the Batangas medal fitted with the NGC slab. The obverse has the words "NUEVA ECIJA FILIPINAS 1864" written in the middle and surrounded by a wreath tied with a ribbon in the center. I am unsure what this medal was used for, but the words on the reverse provide a clue. It has the Spanish words "PREMIO A LA

GANADERIA" was translated using Google Translate as "LIVESTOCK AWARD." I have not found any information about this medal in any literature online or in any monographs issued. Still, I would assume that it was used as an award for the best livestock in Nueva Ecija, part of what the Sociedad had done to spur economic growth in the Philippines. I found it interesting how the obverse and reverse design was more intricate and detailed than its Batangas counterpart despite being an earlier medal. The ribbons that tied both wreaths together had a nice beaded cord attached. The medal's reverse had an even more excellent rainbow toning that gave the medal a lot of character. Surprisingly, NGC thought it was a "cleaned" medal despite its uncirculated status.

Two medals were issued for different geographical areas and purposes in the Philippines but with one singular objective: to spur economic growth in their respective regions. Unfortunately, history tells us that Spain was unsuccessful, as the Sociedad discontinued the Batangas Fair 18 years after it was initially started because of "the continuing poor quality of products and livestock exhibited through the years." As to the exhibits in Nueva Ecija, I assume the same fate had happened as nothing has been discussed over the years. One thing, though, these medals are continuing their legacy by reminding us that at one point in time, Mother Spain had severe problems and had attempted everything to solve these problems with very colorful solutions, albeit unsuccessful. But the exonumia remembrances that symbolized these attempts have become numismatic treasures in our time despite the unsuccessful attempts to attain the objectives they were issued to represent.

Note and References:

  1. Establecimiento de una feria anual de ganados en Lipa,” online at the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte.




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