Wednesday, April 30, 2008


This April, we commemorate the 203rd anniversary of the arrival in Manila of Francisco Javier de Balmis, personal physician to King Carlos IV of Spain. In 1803, after smallpox had affected his daughter, María Luísa, the king commissioned his doctor Señor de Balmis to bring the vaccine to the Spanish colonies on state expenses.

The countries visited were the Canary Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, the Philippines, China and passed by St. Helena on his way back to Spain. The discoverer of the vaccine, Edward Jenner, himself wrote "I don’t imagine the annals of history furnish an example of philanthropy so noble, so extensive as this.”

To remember the generosity of His Majesty, a bronze statue was erected at the Plaza Mayor fronting the Manila Cathedral in 1824 where it still stands today. The plaza is now called Plaza de Roma to celebrate the elevation to the College of Cardinals of Rufino J. Santos, the first Filipino cardinal, in 1961.

The postcard above was issued in the 1920's with Plaza Mayor renamed as Plaza Mckinley in 1901 after the US President.

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