Cholera & Doctors in Spanish Colonial Philippines: Archival Index Part 4

The dreaded “asiatic cholera” has been a frequent visitor of the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. J.N. Hayes in his “Epidemics and Pandemics: Their Impacts on Human History” (2005) described the first cholera pandemic in the world as having occurred in Asia between 1817 to 1824. This first cholera pandemic spread from India (1817) and reached Manila in 1820 where the famous riots of 1820 exploded in Manila as results of rumors that foreigners plotted to poison the waters (see very good essay regarding 1820 cholera outbreak in “I Write As I Write: History and Stuff” blog

One of the results of the 1820 cholera outbreak in Manila was the creation of an award for meritorious service rendered by doctors especially during times of epidemics. According to Jose V. Duenas, this cross of distinction, “cruz de distincion de epidemias,” was first awarded to Don Carlos Luis Benoit, Military Surgeon, in March 17, 1829 (Collection de cruces y medallas de distincion de Espana, 1843, pp 103-106).  In fact, it could be said that the cross of distinction was precisely created in the first place due to the work of D. Carlos Luis Benoit. The cross features that profile of King Fernando and had an inscription in the back that states “Fernando 7 al merito en la epidemia de Manila de 1820” (p.104).

Left Image: “Cruz de distincion de epidemias” (Source: Jose V. Duenas, Collection de cruces y medallas, 1843).

Right Image: King Fernando VII of Spain (Source: Biblioteca Nacional de Espana).

Don Carlos Luis Benoit, who was French and himself got infected by cholera, presented a paper about his observations of the 1820 cholera in Manila and which was later translated into Spanish and published as a book in 1832 (A rare and signed copy of the book is available for sale at a cost of US3000 or PHP132,000 at  An online copy of the book is available at Biblioteca de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (*spi).

Image: Observaciones sobre el cólera-morbo espasmódico, ó Mordechi de las Indias Orientales, recogidas en las Islas Filipinas y publicadas con su método curativo, 1832.

In the National Archives of the Philippines, the various bundles of “Medicos Titulares” contain documents related to the letters of recommendation  for the “cruz de epidemias” award for various doctors during the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines.

Part 4 of Rose Marie E. Mendoza’s “Partial Index of Memorias Medicas and Medicos Titulares” contains 175 entries based on 7 bundles.

SDS 16657 (22). Contains 22 items on medicos titulares. Includes creation of position of “vacunador” for Pangasinan with “sueldo de $240 anuales” (item 7) and a report related to the eruption of volcan “Mayon” (item 22).

SDS 16653 (31). Contains 31 items on medicos titulares.  A number of items on solicitation of the award “Cruz de Epidemias” for service rendered by various medicos titulares (item 3, Abra, 1885; item 4, Misamis, cholera, 1882; item 5, Batangas, 1885). There are also health and sanitation reports for various ships using the ports of Manila (item 29), Cebu (item 30), Iloilo (item 31) around the 1st quarter of 1897.

SDS 16629 (35). Contains 35 items on medicos titulares. Provision for support for establishment of hospital in Candon, Ilocos Sur needed for military expedition to the “Ygorrotes” circa 1881 (item 2); cases of complaints against doctors (item 9, item 23, item 28); cholera (Cavite, 1889; item 20; Surigao, 1889, item 14; San Miguel, 1883, item 30);  Memoria “annual medical reports” (Abra, 1896, Item 22) and vaccination statistics for the Islands and Marianas, Jan 1891 (item 27). There is also a case of the medico titulares of Bohol, D. Ramon Sanchez Mellado, compliant  for the abuses committed by Gov. Joaquin Benochea (item 32).

SDS 16656 (19). Contains 19 items of medicos titulares. Includes a case of an expulsion of a medico titulares, D. Pedro Robledo y Gonzalez, 1876, from his position in the province of Calamianes (item 7).

SDS16648 (13). Contains 13 items of medicos titulares. Some seeming “misplaced” documents regarding religious affairs (e.g., construction of the church in “Ygbaras, Yloylo, 1863” and erection of the parish of Sta. Rita in Samar in 1864 and of the new visitas of Nagas and Pambujan in Samar as well, item 5) and schools “maestros de escuelas (item 6).

SDS 16646 (27). Contains 27 items of medicos titulares. Case of abandonment of post filed against Francisco Gutierrez Bonorgues who was assigned at “Ysabela de Basilan” (item 14). Some items related to cholera (e.g. “Esp. sobre entierros publicos verificados  por el casa de Hagonoy dela prov_a de Bulacan, durante el colera, 1884, item 27).

SDS 16647 (28). Contains 28 items of medicos titulares. We have another list of foreign doctors, Gaspar Nissen from Germany, from the University of Kiel in Prussia (1876, item 13),  Guillermo Pamsay and Eduardo H. Browne from England (1840, item 26) and their applications to  practice in the Philippines. Another doctor from Ireland, Juan Enrique Clarke, seeks revalidation of his license granted in 1843 (item 27).  There is also a list of professors of medicine in Manila, 1890 (item 17).

Download Part 4 of Index:


Previous posts in this series includes the following:

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3

Additional Readings on Cholera:

Ambeth R. Ocampo;s take on the 1882 cholera (



~ by Martin Gaerlan on January 14, 2012.

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