Blair & Robertson: A History of the Philippine Islands, vol. 13 (The Cure for Leprosy)

It’s taken self most of 2020 to read vol. 13. At this rate, she’ll be dead before she gets to vol. 58.

Anyhoo, there is this very interesting passage near the beginning of vol. 13:

Good reports come from Carigara and Paloc; the latter village is unusually prosperous because one of the Jesuits has aided the people to construct better dwellings. They have abandoned their idols, and take pleasure in scouring themselves on Fridays. At Dulac, many baptisms have occurred, and various diseases, among them leprosy, have been cured by this sacrament.

At which point, self has to pause in her reading and wonder which sacrament that was. After several instances of going back and reading over, she gets confused and thinks the sacrament referred to is the “scouring” of “themselves on Fridays.” As a cure for leprosy? Mebbe parts would start falling off, and . . .

She must be really dull today. The sacrament is “baptism.” It says so right there. But still, baptism as a cure for leprosy?

It’s amazing to self that in three sentences, all the ills of colonialism are laid bare: the Spanish priests taught Filipinos to “take pleasure in scouring themselves” — what?

Early 16th c missionaries, like Francisco Alcina and Pedro Chirino wrote that the “natives” took pride in their bodies. In fact, Alcina kept going on about what perfect physical specimens they were. Alcina even remarked that all native babies were born absolutely without blemish.

(About that: Self thinks Alcina was a bit naive. Surely if there was a deformed baby born, the natives would not bother feeding it. Ergo, the perfect physical specimens Alcina discovered, who he wrote bathed several times a day. Both men and women walked about unclothed, and the Bisayans had all kinds of adornments, which included tattoos on every part of their bodies. One can be sure those early missionaries did a lot of admiring.)

* * *

Digression: Has anyone looked at the Doctors Without Borders site for the Philippines?

When self used to travel regularly to Bacolod, she always stayed at the same hotel, and if it was December, that was the month for Doctors Without Borders. The doctors came and stayed a whole month, occupying several floors. In fact, the hotel staff actually mis-took self for a doctor several times, just because her visits frequently coincided with theirs.

HOLY COW WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CLEFT PALATES. And the enlarged heads that look like balloons. She knows there is a name for that condition: elephantiasis? All these terrible deformities are happening for a reason, they are not an Act of God, there must be some scientific explanation.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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