Saturday, April 10, 2010

Argao's Asthmatics in History

I keep forgetting that I have more than 400 years worth of history to back me up in this fight against Gwen Garcia and her skewed view of the needs of the people of Cebu. As a public servant, she should strive hard to improve her leadership, not threaten those brave enough to fight her with lawsuits.

But enough about her for now. This article traces the medical history of Argao, going as far back as 1855, which is the earliest we have on the medical situation in Argao.

On June 29, 1855 Don Rufino Bajo, gobernadorcillo of Argao, Cebu, signed a list of individuals with various infirmities. The list was gathered to establish which among the people of Argao were qualified for exemption from paying tribute and from rendering the polo y servicio (forced labor). It is an interesting piece of historical record because, as early as 1855, we know already how many people in Argao suffered from asthma.

The document goes on to list 424 individuals to be exempted due to medical reasons. Of the 424, 98 are listed as asthmatic. During the Spanish period, health care was not exactly a priority of the Spanish authorities. In most towns, the friars also acted as the medical personnel for the natives. In Argao, towards the middle of the 1800s, a vacunadorcillo was appointed to Argao. He was probably more or less what we now call as a nursing aide who probably received basic medical training from a licensed doctor.

At any rate, I have traced the lives of the 98 asthmatic individuals on this list. And out of the 98, 85 actually died at an age described as reservado por edad, or in other words they were more than 60 or 70 years old. And they were all listed as dying of old age. The remaining 13 died due to the cholera outbreak that plagued the province of Cebu towards the end of Spanish rule.

Imagine that. In the 1800s, healthcare was limited to the rich and most people used primitive remedies. The old Argawanons boiled banaba leaves or leaves from the saliargaw tree and drank the potion to relieve themselves of asthma. Some older people today also said that one of the remedies of asthma in the past was eating the heart of a black dog. Because black dogs were very rare, the remedy was said to be very effective.

The point here is this. In the Spanish period asthmatic people had no medication to help them with their condition. However, none of the asthmatic victims found on that 1855 list actually died from an asthma attack. It is ironic that Ted Villarimo died from an asthma attack at a time when there was already a hospital in Argao, nebulizers and oxygen machines were available, and modern medicines were present to save him.

So, Rory Jon Sepulveda and Gwen Garcia, I ask you this: why did 98 asthmatic people in Argao during the Spanish period survive well into their golden years when there was still no medication and no proper health care? How come your district hospital, supposedly equipped with modern equipment and staffed with competent medical professionals, failed to save one Argawanon suffering from an asthma attack?

(To see the archival document, click on this link)

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