Quesada said that in his days, marriage was taken very seriously, one reason being that it was difficult to bear children.

"A great many young women, if they did not die outright on giving birth to their first child, lost not only their beauty but also their health. There were no physicians, graduate nurses or midwives to minimize the suffering and the terror of maternal death in Paete. Instead, they had old men and women who, because of age and boldness were supposed to have acquired the expertise of assisting at birth," he said.

The birth of a baby in those days was more or less a public affair. People came to a couple's house supposedly to help prepare the mother for the ordeal, but really it was so that they would be first announce what sex the baby was.

The crowd made the house quite uncomfortable, especially since all doors and windows were tightly shut, to prevent mother and child from being blown by an ill-wind (mahipan ng masamang hangin). To make it worse, steam from hot stones, boiling water and lagundi (a medicinal plant) filled the house, presumably to prevent the mother from hemorrhaging and from infection.

Even up till the mid-1950s, the "magpapaanak" was still first to be called when a young wife was about to give birth. My own mother had four of her five children with Tandang Tiyang Dailo (Daiti) assisting. Only Susan, the youngest who was born in Manila, had the privilege of having been delivered by a doctor.

By 1960, Paete was boasting of a few professionally-trained midwives, among whom were Miss Amelia Astronimo and Miss Edi Bague (later Mrs. Cadang.) These modern midwives had no use for lagundi or steaming stones to exercise their profession. Neither did they need to close all windows and doors while assisting at devliery.

To back up a bit, a glimmer of hope did start to shine on Paete as early as the 1930s from a small educated class who tried to set an example toward a saner and safer childbearing process. I was told that at this time, a few medically-trained nurses had started assisting at child delivery, usually among families of schoolteachers and other professionals.

Virgilio Madridejos, son of schoolteacher Mr. Tomas Madridejos,says that Mrs. Raymunda Cadayona
(Tandang Munda) was a pioneer among these professionally-trained nurses during the mid-19th century.

"Tandang Munda was the best midwife and nurse that Paete ever had. Even Amelia Astronimo and Kang Edi Bague Cadang might have been delivered by her in their own homes.

"There are seven children in my family and all of us were delivered by her loving hands under the roof of our own home. During three decades expanding from 1930 to 1950, she might have delivered hundreds of babies in our town of Paete," Virgilio writes.

Still, Quesada said that as a result of a very high maternal and infant mortality rate, Paete population grew so slow over the years and that it took our town 80 years to double its population from the mid-1880's. And presumably it took the same number of years for Paete to spread eastward to Ilaya, southward to Kinale, and northward to Bagumbayan.

Paetenians were so few that even in the 1930's, population was still sparse. Quesada also sadly noted that between the years 1943 and 1955, 312 people have died as a result of the war.

Back to previous page Read next section
Go Back Next