The June 1863 and the July 1881 Earthquakes: Interpretations and Responses
Kerby C. Alvarez, Ph.D.

Alvarez, Kerby C. 2020. “The June 1863 and the July 1881 Earthquakes: Interpretations and Responses”, Illes i imperis (22): 147-169. 


This paper presents a historical analysis of the response of the government and the people after the June 1863 and July 1880 earthquake disasters. It provides a discussion of the extent of damage caused by the two earthquakes, and the post-disaster responses of the Spanish civil government in Manila and the central government in Madrid. This study also narrates the varying interpretations of the earthquakes, from the point of view of the Church, and from the perspective of the scientific community.

The two earthquakes became profound catalysts for the changes that had taken place in its immediate aftermath. First, it prompted the civil government to initiate and implement a systematic disaster response plan and to institutionalize earthquake studies as a prerequisite in crafting seismic engineering and architectural plans for the communities. Second, what transpired after the two earthquakes revealed the long-standing problems in the bureaucracy and the need to implement modern and scientific approaches to urban planning and infrastructural integrity of the city. Ultimately, these catastrophic events paved the way for the institutionalization of scientific, architectural, and public engineering reforms in the colony.

Keywords: Earthquakes, religious responses, Spanish bureaucracy, Jesuits, colonial engineers