Philippine Piso

2:41 pm PHT

Did that title rattle you? Was your grammar/spelling Nazi evil twin awakened by it? If yes, then you’re not alone. Filipino Wikipedians on the English Wikipedia had a long-running debate this year regarding the name of the Philippine currency and what to name the corresponding Wikipedia article.

Digression: This post will be the first time I will talk about the actual down-in-the-trenches behind-the-scenes world of Wikipedians that you don’t usually read in news stories. Most people only know Wikipedia as a pretty good source of introductory information; they only consume what Wikipedia has to offer and don’t help produce content aside from the occasional copyediting. They also don’t know that behind the facade of informative—and sometimes anal—wall of text lies a community of Wikipedians that can rival the greatest and most popular forums and message boards on the Internet (yes, including Usenet). I find it bemusing explaining how things work at Wikipedia to bloggers who have asked me. Anyway, despite being a Wikipedian longer that I have been a blogger, I barely blogged about my “secret” Wikipedian life. I hope to rectify that in the coming year so that you will have an idea what it’s like to be an active contributor to Wikipedia and hopefully to encourage you to help out as well.

On the English Wikipedia, there’s this one non-Filipino contributor who’s been insisting that the official, and only, name of the Philippine currency is “piso” and that’s how the currency should be named in Wikipedia, leading to the title “Philippine piso”. We Filipino Wikipedians have, of course, vehemently protested this (it should be “Philippine peso”) and this led to a move war in late April (where an article is moved/renamed back and forth) and a fiery debate in the article’s talk page. (In Wikipedia, everything comes in pairs: the main page and its talk page, where people discuss what goes on the main page.)

At the heart of the debate is the name of the currency in English. This foreign contributor is insisting that “piso” should be used because that’s what’s written on the coins and bills. He claims that the name of the currency was changed in 1967 when the then Central Bank of the Philippines changed the wording of the currency on the coins and bills from “peso” to “piso”.

The Filipino Wikipedians have not disputed the change in 1967 but we argue that the change is not a change in the currency’s name but rather of the coins and bills’ language, a point that seems lost on the foreign contributor. In essence, “piso” is the name in Filipino, Tagalog, Cebuano, and most other local languages, and it is still “peso” in English. The single biggest proof we have is Section 48 of Republic Act No. 7653 or the charter of the current Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. It says there: “The unit of monetary value in the Philippines is the ‘peso’.”

Despite this, the foreign contributor had continued to insist on “Philippine piso” and this led to another edit war in late November. (Ah, the perils of being a Wikipedian!) The said contributor has backed down (maybe for now) and things are now relatively quiet in the “Philippine peso” corner of Wikipedia.

One incidental benefit of being a Wikipedian and participating in what we call content disputes is that your skills in argumentation are exercised quite a lot. I find it fascinating engaging in debates on various talk pages in Wikipedia. (One particularly interesting—and lengthy!—debate is among Filipino Wikipedians regarding the nature of that weird de jure language we call Filipino vis-a-vis Tagalog.) If you like debating with people on various subjects but without the strict structure and time element of the parliamentary debates that Benj cherishes, you might be fit to become a Wikipedian!

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