Explainer: Tradition of inaugural medals, relics for Philippine presidents in history

July 5, 2022 - 5:44 PM
Inaugural medal of Ferdinand Marcos as the 17th President of the Philippines (Instagram/Harry Roque)

Inauguration medals for Philippine presidents have been a tradition in the national government for years.

Several Filipinos recently talked about this after some photos of inaugural medals bearing the face, title and name of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. circulated online.

These tokens were given to the guests of the inaugural dinner on June 30 after Marcos was sworn in.

One of the photos showed the medal encased in a red box. The menu card for the dinner was also placed beside it.

This snapshot was originally uploaded by a heritage activist and columnist named Antonio Montalván II.

Montalván, however, said on the post that he did not capture the photo. It was only provided to him by a friend.

“Thanks to a friend for the photo. Photo also shows the printed menu card,” his post reads.

A medal as giveaway for guests gathered different reactions on social media.

Some Filipinos, mostly Marcos supporters, were happy for the recipients. They also congratulated the newly-elected officials for their victory.

Others, however, perceived that the gold medal is too pompous for a country with a high inflation rate and deep into debt.

‘A tradition not many people know about’

Columnist Manuel Quezon III shared on Twitter that medals have been used to mark the inaugurations of the country’s leaders for years.

Quezon also shared photos of these memorabilia in his tweet.

“Our institutional memories are so nonexistent people no longer know of the tradition of inaugural medals. They are struck to mark inaugurations. Here are 1935, 1953, 1961, 1969,” he said.

In the Twitter thread, Quezon said the inaugural celebration for that night was already public. He attached photos of the program distributed to them.

Based on the images, the dinner and the Vin d’Honneur were exclusive to “close-in” guests only.

There’s no formal policy or requirement for minting presidential inductions.

It has become a tradition to mark or celebrate election victories with memorabilia such as medals and coins.

Photos of inaugural medals, coins 

Most of these items are either currently being sold or have been auctioned off to the public.

Rodrigo Duterte in 2016

Carlos P. Garcia in 1957

Commemorative medal of Carlos P. Garcia during his inauguration in 1957 (from Ayala Museum)

It can be accessed here: President Carlos P. Garcia commemorative medal | Ayala Museum

Ramon Magsaysay in 1953

Commemorative medal of Ramon Magsaysay during his inauguration in 1953 (from WorthPoint)


Manolo said some Filipinos may not just be aware of the inauguration tradition. He shared photos of the medals of previous presidents Manuel Quezon, Garcia, Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Duterte.

According to Google Arts & Culture, there were also other types of commemorative items for the country’s leaders throughout Philippine history.

Its hub called “Relics of Power: Remembering Philippine Presidents” showed photos of sculptures, busts and other relics created, commissioned and purchased to honor the past presidents.

The materials shown here were curated and produced by the Presidential Museum and Library.

Sculpture for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (from Google Arts & Culture)
Symbolic pendant for Ferdinand Marcos Sr. (from Google Arts & Culture)

It’s also not just the president who had their share of commemorative souvenirs.

A silver medallion was cast to commemorate the friendship between Imelda Marcos, wife of late Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and Elena Ceausescu, wife of the late communist president of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, in April 1975.