The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,000 odd islands, many of them without names. It lies off the south east coast of Asia. The economy is dependent upon exports of electronics and their components as well as apparel and accessories. The currency is the piso (or peso) and it trades under the symbol PHP at 100 centavos or sentimos equal one peso or piso.


The currency of the Philippines dates back definitely to before the 13th century. There were small gold coins featuring Indian Brahman letters called the pilon citos. The country also had Chinese cast bronze coins with square holes. No major currency circulated until the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century. They arrived to colonize Luzon. It was to act as a base for trade with China. The Spanish introduced the real to the Philippines.

The civil unrest in Central and South America during the period from 1820 to 1835 saw the supply of silver coins cut. The result was the issuing of coins within the country. These were copper coins or overstamped silver dollars from Mexico, Bolivia and Peru. They also “made” currency by countermarking one side. This lasted until 1861 when Madrid began to issue specific coins for the Philippines.

In 1898, the Philippines decide to assume control of their own country. They did so with the help of the United States. The revolutionaries of this period issued copper 1 and 2 centimos. The “victory” was short lived as the United States took control. The United States also struck coins in their own mints. These bore the arms of the United States of America.

Achieving limited self-rule in 1934, the Philippine government undertook to modify the currency. They included the president of the United States and the People of the Philippines. This period was short-lived. The Japanese took control in 1941. The money issued at this time included Japanese paper money and “guerilla pesos.” After the end of the war, the country achieved full independence as a Republic in 1946. Overprintings took place with new coins in 1958.

By 1967, the monetary system entered a new phase. The Spanish currency, centavo, became the sentimo and the peso became the piso. The emblem of the country, a man turning a cog, appeared on the coins and the language was in Tagalog – the main dialect. In 1975, the 1 and 5 sen altered in shape becoming square and scalloped-edged. In 1983, the 5-sen coin returned to its former round shape but with a new design while the 2-peso emerged as a 10-sided piece. Today, there are coins of 1, 5, 10 and 25 sentimos and 1, 5 and 10 pesos. Banknotes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and1,000 pesos.

Obtaining Philippine Pisos

You can exchange some of your money in many banks, currency exchangers, and hotels. Official currency changers are found in at the airport and in many commercial businesses. There are also ATMs or AMBs in the larger cities.

Protecting Your Currency

Crime is a serious problem in several of the cities, particularly Manila. Do not flaunt your financial status. Avoid carrying large sums of cash. Be wary in the central business district of Makati.

Using Your Philippine Pisos

Use your sentimos and pisos everywhere. Buy fresh fruit, fish or a drink in the local markets. Go the larger stores or wander among the many smack market stores, indoors and out, to buy handicrafts. Consider cloth weaves, brassware and woodcarving. Opt for the well-known papier-maché horse from Laguna or the silver jewelry from Baquio. You can purchase South Sea pearls or coral trinket boxes. There are also rattan items and woven green mats.

Travel Tips and Warnings


The Philippines is currently experiencing instances of trouble in its regions. A country consisting of over 7,000 islands, it hovers off the coast of southeast Asia. Although suffering from some of the fluctuating downturns in the economy, it continued to make strides into the market.
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Currency Summary

Current currency: piso
100 centavos or sentimos equal one peso or piso
Coins:  1, 5, 10 and 25 sentimos; 1, 5 and 10 pesos
Banknotes:  1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 pesos