Faith That Killed

: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

Back in the 30's an emigrant of some account arrived in Manila. He was

a young doctor of medicine who had just won his sheepskin in Salamanca,

and had been persuaded that there was small hope of a living for

him in a province where the people were too poor to be ill and too

lazy to die. The Philippines had been suggested as a promising field

for his practice, and realizing that he needed practice he made the

long journ
y around Good Hope and reached the Luzon capital nearly

penniless, but full of gratitude and expectancy. Having secured

lodgings, to which he at once affixed his shingle, he sallied forth to

see the town and its people, and one of the first of its inhabitants

to claim his attention, though she claimed it unwittingly, was a

girl of the lower class who was walking along the street with an

easy, elastic step, and in seeming health, yet who was evidently

suffering from a hemorrhage, for at every few paces she paused and

spat blood. Her bearing and expression were in odd contrast with her

peril, for she seemed indifferent to the danger.

Prompted by compassion as well as by a professional interest,

the physician followed the invalid, expecting at every moment to

see her fall or hear her beg for help, his wonder at the stoicism

and endurance of the Filipino growing constantly. When she reached

her home, an humble house in a poor quarter of the city, he begged

immediate audience with her parents, who were, unfortunately,

acquainted with the Spanish tongue, and told them it was his duty to

warn them that the girl had not twenty-four hours to live; that she

was afflicted with a mortal illness; that a priest should be called

at once. The girl's cheeks were ruddy, she was in good spirits, and

the old people were inclined to resent the warning as a joke, being an

exceeding poor one. The visitor explained that he was a medical man,

that he was actuated by the most charitable of motives, that he would

do everything in his power to delay the fatal ending of the disease,

but that restoration to health was impossible.

When this dreadful news was broken to the girl she had a violent fit

of weeping, then hysterics, then a long fainting spell, and sank into a

decline so swift that the parents were in despair. Neighbors flocked in

to offer condolences and comforts; a priest received the young woman's

confession and performed the last rites; the doctor plied his patient

with drugs, fomentations, and stimulants; father, mother, and friends

groaned, prayed, and tore their hair. All the time the poor creature

sank steadily, the color left her face, her breath grew labored,

and as night fell the doctor's warning was fulfilled,--she was dead.

In a single day the fame of this wonderful physician spread through

all the city, and people flocked to his lodging with money and

diseases. He was dazzled at the prospect of riches. After three or

four years of this kind of thing, if the tax man did not hear too

much of his success, he could return to Spain and live in comfortable

retirement. Alas! for human hopes, he returned sooner than he had

intended. A few days after the death of his first patient somebody

asked how he forecast her fate so exactly.

"It was easy enough,--she spat blood," he answered.

"Are you sure it was blood?"

"Certainly. It was red."

"Ah, senor, every one spits red in Manila."


"Oh, it is true! Everybody chews the buyo leaf, which is like the

betel of India, that you have heard of, just as everybody smokes in

Luzon. The juice of the buyo is red."

Then the doctor realized that he had killed his patient by making

her believe she was doomed to die, and with the earnings of his brief

career in the Philippines he bought a passage back to Spain in the same

ship that had carried him to the East. So, if you hear that a person

is ill, but if your informant winks and says that he is spitting red,

you may believe that the invalid will be out after a good sleep and

a little bromide.