An unusual response to an emergency

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An unusual response to an emergency

Topic |  


According to psychology, the usual response of an animal or humans to an emergency is to fight, flee, hide, or join the attacker.  The present emergency brought about by the COVID-19, the response of the Filipinos is a mixture of responses.

Emergencies in history

When the invading Spaniards led by Ferdinand Magellan reached Cebu, Rajah Humabon decided to join the invading Spaniards.  However, Chief Lapulapu of Mactan, Cebu choose to fight the Spaniards.


When the Bo-ol Kingdom was attacked by Ternateans and Portuguese, the initial response of the Boholanos was to fight and then flee.

When the Japanese invaders reached Bohol, the response of the Boholanos was a mixture.  Some of the public officials joined the invaders, but majority decided to flee and hide.   It was only later on that the Boholanos decided to fight the Japanese.


We do not know whether there were epidemics prior to the coming of the Spaniards.  However, throughout the Spanish era epidemics were common.  The usual epidemics were caused by cholera (Bis: suka-kalibang) and smallpox (Bis: butí).

In Bohol, the usual intervals of epidemics were five (5) years that will always kill about 5% of the population.  Even with deaths caused by epidemics, the population in Bohol kept on increasing.  Sometime in the 1870s, Bohol was the most populous province in the Philippines then the population became stagnant due to out-migration of Boholanos, which until the 1980s was the highest in the Philippines.  In 1975 the Population Control Office recorded an out-migration of 150 per thousand.

There were other medical epidemics during the Spanish era but the church records in the Libros de Entierros or Burial books record it only asViruela or smallpox but it could also mean any viral disease.


It was very common in the towns of Bohol to have deaths of 30 to 50 in a population of about 3,000.


When Bohol became a province on March 3, 1854 until establishment of the Presbyterian Mission Hospital in 1912, there was only one medical doctor assigned in Bohol.  However there were three (3) vacunador or vaccinator assigned at one per district (Tagbilaran; Tubigon; and Jagna).


During the Spanish era in Bohol, when an epidemic will arise, there were only home remedies because there were no hospitals.  The Boholanos and the Spaniards would rely upon the remedies provided by thaumaturgist or tambalan.  The medicines or cures are written in the dictionary of Fr. Juan Felix delaEncarnacion “DiccionarioEspañol– Bisaya” published in 1852. (Note: I had a lecture of these cures in San Sebastian College, Manila in 2006 with the Augustian Recollect priests as audience).


If you will investigate carefully the cures of the Boholanotambalan is similar to that of Southern India.  The difference is that in India it is studied in school while in Bohol it is transmitted from father to son or grandson.  (Note: During the Spanish era was always from grandfather to grandson.  It was because when the grandfather has accumulated medical knowledge, it is the grandson who had the time to be with his grandfather.)

However the Spanish priest will insist that prayer and masses should be the cure during epidemics.  The prayers will be through Novenas or mine days of prayer advocated to the Patron Saint or a particular saint assigned to a particular disease.  In Tagbilaran, Bohol the saint is San Roque or St. Rook (Bis: Santos bugoy).


When Dr. James A. Graham established the Presbyterian Mission Hospital (In what is now Luisa Galeria, Gallares St.) in 1912, the medical treatment in Bohol became “modernized”.  From 1912 to 1935, medical cases that could not be solved in Cebu and Mindanao were brought to Tagbilaran. (Note: Now it is opposite.  We go to Cebu).

Today’s response

Today we face a medical emergency.  The COVID-19 is now pandemic.  We can notice that our response to the emergence is now different from former times.

This is the first time that the Province of Bohol is in “Community Quarantine (Bis: Laming sakatilingban).  It is because the COVID-19 has yet no known cure.  Since it is caused by a virus, you must have to endure the attack of the virus until it will expire in 14 days.  If you can endure, then you are cured, and if not you will die.  Fortunately only 2% of those infected with COVID-19 will die.  However, a life is precious and as much as possible with will avoid COVID-19.

In previous times the response was to gather and pray.  Now we are ordered to stay at home and observe “social distancing” or at least be one meter  away from a person.

There should be no shaking of hands and the old Boholano way of kúwin is recommended. In Kúwin you shake you own hands when you express your greetings.

We are advised to use face mask (Bis: hijáw) to avoid being infected or infecting others.  School classes and graduation activities are suspended and community gatherings are prohibited.  I am not sure whether it can be imposed in a fiesta.  The Martial Law of President Marcos was not able to prevent fiestas in Bohol.

At present majority of the people are complying, including the curfew. The limit of the emergency is set on April 12, 2020 or Easter Sunday.  After that date I think “Community Quarantine” will no longer be effective because there will be a “social fatigue”.

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