Posted by: vip | March 7, 2009

Kabkad* in the time of kolera (1883)

When I went over the Burials book covering 1883, I had no prior knowledge of epidemics involving Carcar.   I was going over the records all routine-like until it slowly dawned on me that there were unusual number of deaths in a day. A flag in my head went up and I went back to the year start and made a table of the deaths (per the burials) and causes thereof.  There were almost the same number of deaths in some days than a whole average month. And the cause was “peste”.

I wrote a historian to ask what “peste” listed in the 1883 books may have been and he readily answered that was the cholera epidemic of that year.  Among the hundreds who died of “peste” were the 31-year-old first wife of my great-grandfather and their 8-year-old son who followed the mother two days after–both right on the first month of the scourge.  My great-grandfather married again the following year and here we are from that second marriage.

I can imagine the wailing all over town at first, but after so many seemingly unrelenting weeks and months, the eerie absence of it as numbed despair took over when whole families got wiped out.

The next cholera epidemic would come around 1903.

Here is a monthly summary (table was per day) of what I noted down for 1883:

Month natural violent peste none Total
January 23 1 24
February 19 1 20
March 25 1 26
April 22 22
May 26 56 82
June 12 183 1 196
July 10 197 1 208
August 12 52 64
September 36 6 42
Total 185 1 494 4 684

(peste accounts for 72.2% of total deaths for Jan-Sep )

(peste accounts for 83.4% of total deaths for May-Sep)

That particular Burials volume’s last record was September 21 of that year and there had not been a death by “peste” for 7 days.  I no longer felt the need to complete the rest of the year and deemed the point had been well taken.

*Kabkad is by now regarded by everyone who writes about Carcar history to be the older, and native, name of Carcar. But not this crusty blogger who credits skepticism to have always propelled his educational development. For one, documents dated 1600s had already referred to the town as Carcar. For two, the town is just too large territorially to have had a kabkad character in its entirety. As a fern, kabkad could not have been prevalent throughout the width and breadth of the town and so, to me, a locality may have been called kabkad, but not the whole town. For three, the old town center located nearer to the shore in the present-day Valladolid-Tuyom area is also said, by the same historians, to have been called Sialo, so which is it? 

 And four, the name Kabkad only caught on when nationalism arose, especially after the revolution and as the Americans took over. And so, instead supposedly of Spanish priests calling it Carcar (in 1599) to replace the native Kabkad, I suspect it was the other way around, that more likely the nationalistic townspeople started calling it Kabkad (in the 1900s) to replace the Spanish Carcar. Besides, the fern is actually called either kabkab or kaban-kaban, and not kabkad.



  1. thanks for the another view on the timeline for the changing names of Carcar. yours is more probable

  2. plausible

    • Sir, I take your comment to be on the “Kabkad*”? Plausible is a bit offensive term unless it was really your intention to be pointed since my rationalizations were really done in earnest. Actually, in the town history of Boljoon, it is admitted in their website that the town was in 1599 then a convent of Siaro (Carcar), per writings of an Agustinian council. A cartography of Cebu island drawn a little after that labels Carcar as Kabcar. And then, a 1624 encomienda identifies the town as Carcar. Meanwhile, a contemporary official Carcar history credits Mowag as a former town name, too. As I asked in the post, which is it supposed to be?

  3. hello sir, i’m sorry for that. yes, I was referring to “Kabkad”. Perhaps i was overwhelmed by this development on this “chicken or egg” question, and my response is mere opinion with no intention to offend. I first encountered “Kabkad” in a play by Al Evangelio that recounts the life of Leon Kilat. This was reinforced when my art professor/historian expressed the same idea back in college. Yet he didn’t mention it as “fact” but more in the context of folklore. (And he may have a different view on it now.) Surprisingly, I never heard of Kabkad during my growing up years, going back and forth Cebu City and Car-car, not until college. Your research though shines a new light, and I never meant to offend you in any way. I’m a curious cat, and would rather stay in the middle for now . Perhaps “plausible” is the wrong term and my limited vocabulary did a disservice on my end. My apologies.

  4. hi vip,
    My great-grandmother, Melchora Rayla Alfafara’s will is in patriotic Cebuano, thus she used Kabkad, Sugbu, K.P. as her address. What is K.P.? Kapunungan ng Pilipina? ha ha ha. I have noticed that in her husband’s family, lolo and tio were not used at all. It was all tatay, insi, inday, mana and titi. I still remember Nanay Taling insisting that the Cebuano equivalent for tio and tio were manoy and manang. She raised her kids to use those terms. It was only later that the younger generation used tio and tio because manang for aunt seemed disrepectul around others.
    That is why I think that the more nationalistic residents were the ones using Kabkad. It would be interesting if this coincides with the political affiliation of people at that time.

  5. that is why i agree with you that the more nationalistic Kabkadanons substituted Kabkad

    • John, either your grandmother used the address or if there was another person who drew it for her did–your grandfather who was one of the best Visayan writers? I don’t know what Visayan they used at that time for Republic of the Philippines. To me, republic means public wealth and that could be translated kabtangan either sa katawhan or sa tinipong katawhan. Fantastic no?

      And BTW, I called my father Daddy, my grandfather Papa but papa’s brothers and sisters as Tatay and Nanay, and my Daddy used Manoy and Manang. Papa, tio and tia are Spanish. Now it’s uncle, auntie and even kuya and ate.

  6. […] But, yes, that’s what historical accounts say happened.  Vicente Noel (1873-1951) and Vicente Florido (1907-1993) in their respective reconstructions of the town history both mentioned that the Valladolid church[2] was burned to the ground in a Muslim pirate raid in 1622.  The authorities then moved the cabecera (parish/town center, derived from Sp. cabeza, meaning head) further inwards atop a hill in a locality called Kabkad (see previous post Kabkad in the time of Kolera). […]

  7. yes…the name carcar was taken from mother spain…you see,,,it was just a matter of pride by the locals, that they made another name from the original name given by the spaniards to the place……

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