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Philippine Narratives of Public Health (1): Colonial Diseases

Friday 20 March 2015, 1400 – 1600, Lecture Theatre 5

Part 1 of 2. View part 2.

Organiser:
Nicolo Paolo P Ludovice
Ateneo de Manila University
nludovice@ateneo.edu

Chair:
Nicolo Paolo P Ludovice
Ateneo de Manila University
nludovice@ateneo.edu

Discussant:
Nel Jason Haw
Department of Health, Republic of the Philippines
neljasonhaw@gmail.com

The public health experience in the Philippines is a product of its long history of interaction and immersion with native practices and colonial policies which oftentimes have led to different trajectories. The central state objectives were at times incongruent with what localities were used to that resulted in different responses from those concerned. Convergences and divergences in the discourses of public health can be gleaned from the competing influences in colonial administration, political governance, socio-economic transformations, cultural and legal experience, all of which contribute to a unique history of public health in the Philippines. This proposal is for two panels whose aim is to present the diversity of public health experience in the Philippines. The first panel consists of papers dealing with the American colonial influences and local responses on diseases from 1898 to the first half of the twentieth century. The second panel explores the localization of responses through an expansion of the operational definition of public health as once centered on diseases to include personal wellness, social services, disaster management, and environmental protection from its independence in 1946 to the present. Both panels present narratives of public health that are important in constructing the landscape and nature of public health in the Philippines.

 

Paper 1: The Carabao Goes to Court: Supreme Court Responses to the Rinderpest Epizootic, 1901-1916

Nicolo Paolo P Ludovice
Ateneo de Manila University
nludovice@ateneo.edu

By late 1886, an unknown disease from Indochina arrived on the shores of the Philippines which caused a wave of terror among carabao (Bubalus bubali, water buffalo) owners. Later known as rinderpest, this disease reached critical levels and resulted to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of carabaos, or around 75% of the carabao population in the Philippines. Since the carabao was considered as the major draft animal for which farmers depended on for their livelihood, this significantly reduced the agricultural output of the localities, but more disconcerting was the rise of criminal activity attributed to these deaths. Carabao thieves, murderers, smugglers, and bandits proved to be a bigger threat than the rinderpest. As a result, cases involving the carabaos were sent to the inferior courts, and eventually, to the Supreme Court for arbitration and appeal. This paper will argue that public health policies on combating the epizootic were significant in maintaining the peace and order in the localities. Through the Supreme Court decisions in the early twentieth century, the success of social control depended on a strong rule of law, policies on property ownership, and adequate investments on scientific research.

 

Paper 2: Life Behind Bars: Beriberi and the Health of Prisoners in Carcel de Lingayen under the American Colonial Period

Alexis Andaya
Ateneo de Manila University
alexis.andaya@obf.ateneo.edu

Angelie Maglasang
Ateneo de Manila University
angelie.maglasang@obf.ateneo.edu

Jenina Nalupta
Ateneo de Manila University
jenina.nalupta@obf.ateneo.edu

An outbreak of Beriberi, a disease common in prisons, in the US Military Prison of Lingayen was reported in 1901 to have affected many Filipino prisoners. Because of this, reforms were introduced which led to a restructuring of the prison in terms of nutrition, structural renovations, sanitation, and employment of health professionals. The American colonial administration provided for a reformative penal system with the main objective of rehabilitating prisoners rather than instilling fear through enforced punishments. The old penal system under the Spanish colonial regime was thus replaced by the Americans which marked a radical change from a punitive treatment of prisoners to a more humane one. Why were prisoners who were considered transgressors of the laws of society, suddenly treated humanely? This paper will argue that changes in the Philippine penal system under the Americans were part of an overall imperial design and discourse with health as its focus: (1) as part of the benevolent assimilation of the United States of America towards the Philippines, (2) in accordance to the ongoing discourse in the West regarding penology, and (3) as a ground for comparison between the oppressive Spanish colonizers and the saviors, Americans.

 

Paper 3: American Benevolence and The Prevalence of Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Bilibid Prison in the Philippines, 1898 – 1934

Jose Carlos Ruben Javier
Ateneo de Manila University
chuckiejavier@gmail.com

Christelle Lyn L. Mendoza
Ateneo de Manila University
christelle.lyn@gmail.com

Farida Marcelle Vergara
Ateneo de Manila University
vergarafarida@gmail.com

The prison is considered as the microcosm of state policies on social control and practice of authority. But when an epidemic strikes, the prison’s capacity and capability to contain and arrest its spread also reflected wider conditions, structures, and policies. In his Presidential Address during the First National Congress of Tuberculosis in 1928, Dr. Fernando Calderon promptly claimed that the “”history of tuberculosis in the Philippines may be said to be as old as the Islands themselves””. Wide-spread poverty, under-education, general unhealthiness and malnutrition were considered key factors that contributed to the spread of the disease resulting to policies and programs that would combat tuberculosis for all sectors of society. Hence, when the American military officials inherited the penal system from the Spanish colonial authorities in 1898, it brought along with them the policy of American benevolence. This was extended into penal institutions specifically the Bilibid Prison, which was considered as the largest and oldest penitentiary in the Philippines and where cases of and deaths from the disease were higher compared to the general population. This paper aims to explore the “American benevolence” as exercised in the Bilibid prison on the onslaught of tuberculosis in the Philippines from 1898 to 1934. It expounds the epidemiology, prognosis, etiology and early diagnosis of TB from around the world, into the Philippines. Zooming in Manila, it specifically describes the conditions of Bilibid Penitentiary that helped in the propagation of the disease, as well as the measures the government took to decrease the infection rate within and outside the facility. The paper ends with possible solutions such as the construction of Sanatorium in Iwahig, and the use of Baguio’s natural resources and climate to alleviate the condition.