Doctors & Public Health in Spanish Colonial Philippines: An Archival Index

What was the state of public health in the late 19th century Philippines? To answer this question, Ken de Bevoise in his “Agents of Apocalypse: Epidemic Disease in the Philippines” asserted that there was no better witness to the state of affairs than the Spanish medico titular (licensed physician) of Iloilo, Dr. Jose Gomez y Arce (2002, p. 6). For his primary sources, Ken de Bevoise relied on the “Memorias Medicas” bundles found at the National Archives of the Philippines.

For those interested to continue or expand de Bevoise’s work on public health in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period, the mere thought of having to dig the “un-indexed” depths of the “Memorias Medicas” can send shivers of archival pain through one’s body. After all, in the absence of an index or finding aid, a researcher is left with no option but to borrow the bundle closest to the subject matter of interest and hope that one finds even a morsel of information that justified all the patience of reading each archival document.  For “Memorias Medicas” that digging will be a little bit easier thanks to the effort of Rose Marie E. Mendoza, an independent researcher, who donated to the National Archives of the Philippines her work “Partial Index of Memorias Medicas and Medicos Titulares (June 11, 2010).”  As per Ms. Mendoza, the index was prepared as part of an engagement (circa 1986-1987) she had with a professor in one of the local universities who was doing a research on cholera in the Philippines. An an independent researcher, Ms. Mendoza’s task was to a provide an index to about a total of 57 bundles.  After about two years of indexing (circa 1986-1987), Ms. Mendoza completed about 1,264 typewritten entries. In addition, Ms. Mendoza annotated in her own handwriting some additional notes/entries to these typewritten entries.  With the permission of Ms. Mendoza, and with her hope that the index will be used and appreciated by a wider community, a copy of said index will be “archived” online.  As the index was done during the typewriter era, there were no editorial changes done to the actual document. In other words, what you see is what you get with all the handwritten notes. Nevertheless, Ms. Rose should be congratulated for her unselfish effort in sharing her “partial index” so that other researchers may benefit from her earlier archival diggings and indexing.

As a first installment, part 1 contains 308 entries based on 9 bundles.

First Part.  9 bundles, 308 indexed entries

SDS 12447  (49). This bundles contains 49 entries with a good number of memories (annual reports) on public health for Ilocos Norte, Cagayan de Misamis, Cavite, Laguna, Abra, Leyte, Samar, Antique, Iloilo, Tarlac, Masbate y Ticao, Bohol, Pangasinan, Capiz.  Item no. 25 sounds very interesting with D. Jose Gomez y Arce’s report titled Provincia de Iloilo la “Gripe” epidemica-memoria sanitaria de la mima correspondiente al ano de 1892

SDS 16640 (39). Contains 39 entries related to the appointments of “medicos titulares” for various provinces. Items no. 28 and 29 involves D. Sebastian Sanchez Palomares, medico titular de Pampanga-1884, 1885. Interestingly enough, for about US$458 or about PHP20,152 pesos, one can purchase a photograph of said doctor at (this is not an endorsement and the curator of museo santisima trinidad has no commercial tie-up with said online entity).

Image: Photo of  Sebastian Sanchez Palomares (wearing a hat), Medico Titulares of Pampanga – 1897 Source:

SDS 16642 (35). Contains 35 entries of medicos titulares (appointments, transfers, etc.)

SDS 16644 (58) Contains 58 entries of medicos titulares. However, also includes items on “Hospital especial de Tondo y San Lazaro” and  on prisons “La habitacion del practicante de la carcel publica de Manila tiene en tal estado de deterioro 1892.” For those interested in cholera, there is item no.53 on the “estado del movimiento de enfermos colericas en la capital el dia 28 Agosto 1882.”

SDS 16623  (9). Contains only 9 entries of medicos titulares. Contains a notation that the case of “inmorales” against a medico titulares involved an abandonment of post.

SDS 16650 (5) Contains only five entries but all regarding the cholera of 1882 for Mariquina, San Juan del Monte, San Felipe Nery, Pandacan, and Pilipinas. A major source for all you cholera researchers.

SDS 16643  (15). Contains 15 entries but continues with the cholera reports for Montalvan, San Mateo – 1882. Contains other items related to cholera.

SDS 16626 (57) Contains 57 entries of medicos titulares (appointments, transfers, reimbursement/payments for services rendered, etc.).  Our friend, D. Jose Gomez Arce, medico titulares of Iloilo, appears again this time applying for travel expenses for himself and his spouse.  According to Andrea Gallo, d. Jose Gomez Arce, or Jose Maria Gomez y De Arce, was married to Doleres Windham y Locsin. (see GUILLERMO GOMEZ WINDHAM: Lineas bio-bibliograficas y unos poemas at

SDS 16627 (41). Contains 41 entries of medicos titulares. Rose Mendoza has notations of “OK” on various items like item 19, “Personal de Sanidad – nombres de medicos titulares 1890,” and a report on violence  (items 31 “En 24 de Abril 1898 fue asesinado villanamente por varios ilusos en el pueblo de Guagua….”).

NOTE: Download File Size = 125MB


Other posts in this series:

Part 2.

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6


~ by Martin Gaerlan on January 12, 2012.

One Response to “Doctors & Public Health in Spanish Colonial Philippines: An Archival Index”

  1. OH MY GOSH. I’m a researcher, diving into historical demographic issues here in Manila…and this is fantastic to come across! Many thanks on making these available.

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