Is this article accurate, in referring to Bayani Rumbaoa as the first Filipino coin engraver? I am puzzled because this suggests that all engravers of RP coins issued prior to 1991 were foreigners. If true, I find this remarkable.
From the Manila Bulletin - October 10, 2010
Life at the Flip of a CoinBy BRYAN B. GARCIA October 10, 2010, 12:29pm
First Filipino engraver Bayani Rumbaoa MANILA, Philippines – The color of money is second only to the prominent faces printed on it. The heroes immortalized in monetary bills have for themselves carved their niches in Philippine history, enough to give them the honor of being passed on from one Filipino hand to another.
Because money changes hands all the time, the aesthetic value of each paper bill often goes unnoticed. The intricacy of the lines that make up the overall layout of a bill can only be revealed upon closer inspection. Careful scrutiny of the bills would also reveal the extent with which each piece was executed along with the social relevance of every note.
Now comes the noisier of the bunch – the coins. From the five and ten peso coins to the one, five, ten and 25 centavo coins that are almost left forgotten inside coin purses, these denominations now do not get the appreciation they deserve.
Filipinos just keep forgetting that a peso will not become whole if not for the coins. The value of these small notes does not do justice to the time, effort and artistry involved in the creation of every engraved piece.
And if we have heroes in the faces of our bills, we have another hero to thank for every precise cut and detailed etchings engraved into the coins. His name is Bayani Rumbaoa.
Rumbaoa, the first Filipino coin engraver, still admits that like the coins that he had hewn and wielded, his efforts and talents are still often underrated. “The art of coin engraving is really done behind the scenes. It’s really not that famous,” Rumbaoa says.
The craft’s lack of fame, however, has not diminished Rumbaoa’s resolve to make a name for himself. His family earned a modest living selling various products at the Plaza Miranda in Quiapo.
Despite their modest living condition, Rumbaoa’s father saw a glimmer of hope in his son. Rumbaoa exhibited a talent in drawing, a skill that his father would incessantly hone.
“My father made me do a sketch for him every day while he slept. I thought then that I was being punished,” Rumbaoa recalls. “What I didn’t know was as time passed, I was getting better in drawing figures,” he adds.
Despite encountering setbacks one after the other, Rumbaoa’s family persevered. With sheer determination, they tried to conquer life’s challenges. After graduating from the Ramon Magsaysay High School, Rumbaoa took up Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas and majored in Painting.
Rumbaoa supported his family during his stint in college. “I was determined to look for jobs to provide for my family and to finish my studies,” Rumbaoa recalls.
It was three years after graduation that Rumbaoa landed a job as an engraver for the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Eventually, it was through the BSP that Rumbaoa was granted a scholarship and the first Filipino to attend an engraving course offered by the Italian Mint of State in 1992 at the Instituto Poligrafico E’ Zecca Dello Stato Scuola Dell’ Arte Della Medaglia in Rome, Italy. This was a turning point in Rumbaoa’s career as the stint earned for him the title of the first ever Filipino engraver.
His deep knowledge of his craft has resulted in the coins and commemorative medal designs that have circulated in the country through the years. Rumbaoa’s craftsmanship can be seen through the most recent BSP commemorative coins series for the 30th Chess Olympiad in 1992, the 6th Anniversary of the People Power Revolution in 1992, the 16th SEA Games in 1991, as well as the Pope’s visit in 1994 and his death in 2005. Rumbaoa’s works have included impressions of the most notable events in Philippine history as well as the images of some of the most iconic Filipinos in the coins and medals that he has designed.
Rumbaoa is currently working on a commemorative medal which immortalizes the University of Santo Tomas’ 400th year anniversary, a work that he says is a synthesis of his talents and everything he has worked on so far in his career. “I feel like what I’m doing right now is the best (that) I’ve ever done.
Being an alumnus, my heart is really in this work and I’m pouring everything I know into it,” Rumbaoa says. “This work shows my gratitude for the things I learned and what UST has done for me,” he adds.
Although Rumbaoa’s achievements have been seldom heard of compared to his contemporaries in other fields of visual arts, it does not mean that it lacks in prestige. Like the coins that he has wielded with his hands, this artist’s value does not do justice to the amount of work he has put into his craft, the talent he displays, and his contribution to Filipino craftsmanship.
Regardless of fame or fortune, Rumbaoa will continue to express his talents and pour his skills in each scratch and impression he makes. Celebrated or unappreciated, Rumbaoa’s name alone is the most important engraving in Philippine history.
(The University of Santo Tomas’ 400th Anniversary commemorative coin will be inaugurated on October 15, 2010 at the opening of the Thomasian Global Trade Expo at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.)