Colonial Policies on Insanity in the Philippines, 1903-1928
Francis Justine M. Malban

Malban, Francis Justine M. 2022. “Colonial Policies on Insanity in the Philippines, 1903-1928” Philippine Journal of Health Research and Development 26 (4): 31-41


Despite the persistent relevance of mental health in the lives of Filipinos and the long tradition of mental health care in the Philippines, scholarly works on the history of mental illnesses and mental health institutions, particularly during the colonial period, remain scarce. This paper aimed to explore the various policies implemented by the American colonial government in the Philippines to address issues regarding insanity from 1903 to 1928. As a historical inquiry, the paper employed historical analysis in examining sources of data such as archival documents, official reports, bulletins, and statistics produced by the various offices of the American colonial government in the Philippines. Three specific policies were identified – the establishment of the Insane Department at the San Lazaro Hospital in 1904 as a response to the overcrowding and inadequate treatment methods at the Hospicio de San Jose, the Insane Department’s adherence to the principles of moral treatment, and enactment of different laws pertinent to insane persons, most notably the Insanity Law of 1912.

The historical narrative shows that these policies had been used by the American colonial government to showcase their alleged benevolence and preserve public order. It was also demonstrated that the colonizers ultimately failed to develop the Insane Department as a modern insane asylum, as indicated by persistent problems such as overcrowding, lack of proper facilities, and outdated treatment methods.

Keywords: insanity, Insane Department, San Lazaro Hospital, insanity law, colonial policies, Philippines