The PDA Seal

The PDA Logo and the Caduceus
(Evolution and Symbolism)
Sofronio P. San Juan, D.D.M., M.D.Sc


These observations stem from the author’s almost 50 years of involvement with PDA affairs. It is by no means conclusive, and additional information or rectifications will be most welcome. What is important is for PDA and its Chapters/ Affiliates to agree to adopt “ One Official Logo” for the sake of uniformity.

Through the years, I have observed the inconsistencies in the use of our “PDA Logo”. These must have been due to either lack of appreciation of its real meaning and symbolism, or just plain misinformation of what it stands for. This short article will attempt to put our logo in the right perspective with a nationalistic fervor. It is but logical to trace its evolution from the origin of the “Caduceus” and the ancient people, places and events, not to mention the myths involved.

“Caduceus” is a Latin term, which comes from the Greek word, “Karikein” meaning “Karyx” or Herald. Hence, “Herald’s Badge of Office”. In fact, during classical time, this badge is indicative of a sacred person not to be molested … a magical potency for protection used as a “King’s Scepter” or stick on sleeves. The original form of a “Caduceus” was a branch with two twigs growing at the top like a Dowser’s rod. These twigs were then pulled down and entwined around the main branch. The orientals had its own interpretation whereas the twigs became snakes … somewhat like the staff carried by Aesculapius (Gr. Asklepias). Aesculapius was the Originator of Medicine” and honored as a hero of Athens and eventually as a god. Temples known as Aesculapias were erected in many parts of Greece particularly in high mountains Aesculapias that Hippocrates; the reorganized “Father of Medicine” was born.

As mentioned above, Aesculapius was a Greek “ God of Medicine” who lived about the 12th or 13th B.C. His father is Apollo, the “Sun God” god of healing, and his mother is the nymph Cronis. The ancient people connected the sun to the curing of disease. The great Greek poet Homer mentioned Aesculapius in his “lliad” as a skillful physician who could restore life to the dead. Pluto, the guardian of the dead, for fear of losing his dominion and his job complained to the Great Goz Zeus. Zeus, afraid too, that Aesculapius might render all men immortal, slew him with a thunderbolt. Aesculapius’ symbols was serpent entwined around a staff.

Another myth related to the origin of the “Caduceus” involved the life of Hermes, known to the Romans as Mercury, the messenger of the Gods. He owned a lyre, which attracted Apollo, the god of manly youth and beauty, poetry, oracles, healing and music. Apollo wanted to possess the lyre that he exchanged his magic wand for this. This magic wand was known to have influence over all things … bestowing wealth and all things good. This was the first “Caduceus” and was made of an olive branch with garlands. One day, Hermes or Mercury came upon two serpents fighting each other. He separated them using this magic wand. Today, these two serpents may be seen in medical and dental insignias or logos entwined around a staff. They represent goodness, wisdom and power to heal. The wings at the top represent Mercury’s speed as messenger of the Gods.

The “PDA Logo”, has undergone an evolutionary process. Before World War II, the “Caduceus” with its winged staff and intertwined serpents was frequently used in the United States of America as a medical emblem. This, unfortunately, was without medical relevance since it represented then the magic wand of the messenger of the Gods … Hermes or Mercury, as the patron of traders. Dentistry adopted this emblem and put the letter “D”:

The earliest copy of the Journal of the PDA in my possession was May 1952. The logo appeared as a staff with a serpent entwined and two springs with leaves at the bottom of the staff. This was enclosed by an equilateral triangle, which according to the officials of the Association then, represents Education as the base of the triangle and the two sides, Organization and Licensure. These were then enclosed by a circle with the Philippine Dental Association. At the bottom of said circle is the word, Founded in 1908 (Fig. 1)

Since our Journal was first published in 1948, and considering that my oldest copy was 4 years old, it is possible that the same logo must have appeared earlier. Last appearance was in the August 1961 issue of the PDA Journal. A new logo appeared in the September 1961 issue of the Journal of the Philippine Dental Association. A staff with a serpent entwined with crossed Sampaguita sprigs at the bottom of the number of 4 sets of leaves on each side to make a total of 16 representing half of the human permanent dentition, with five each Sampaguita flowers representing half of the human temporary dentition. The permanent and temporary dentition have a total of 32 and 20 teeth, respectively. For the first time, the “Tagalog”letter”Da” appeared between the top of the staff and the Sampaguita sprigs. It was also claimed that this was borrowed from the ancient Pre-Hispanic “Alibata or Baybayin”…. the basis of our modern “ABAKADA”. This “Da” is the equivalent of letter “D” that stands for Dentistry. The “Alibata “ is till extant and in use among the Mangyans of Mindoro and other ethnic groups in certain parts of the Philippines. The triangle disappeared, but the encircled words, Philippine Dental Association remained. This time, the 1908 was below the encircled sprigs and just below that, three stars representing Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The serpent, by the way, represents a “Dahong Palay”, poisonous Philippine snake. (Fig. 2). This logo was adopted from the insignia of the Armed Forces Dental Service with minor modification. This said insignia was approved by the Heraldry Committee, Office of the President , Republic of the Philippines in 1956 issue. There were no issues of the JPDA after the July – August – September 1986. The publication was resumed June – July- August 1988. Again, there was a different configuration of the logo. Noticeably, the sprigs were pointed and the number of leaves and flowers were not distinct (Fig. 3). The DDM Journal was the official organ of the PDA from 1990 to March 1991 (3 issues).

Another innovation of the logo of the Philippine Dental Association was observed in the June – July – August 1989 issue of the JPDA (Fig. 4). It is practically the same as the one described in the preceding paragraph except the Sampaguita sprigs. They are located at the side of the staff, serpent and letter “ Da” and 1908 separating them at the bottom. There are now 8 sets of leaves at each side or a total of 32 and 7 each of Sampaguita flowers or a total of 14. Apparently, these were suppose to represent the number of teeth of the human permanent and temporary dentitions as the previously described logo. But why 14 flowers? It should be 20 for temporary dentition – 10 for each side.

As mentioned at the outset, there had been variations in the representations of our logo as observed by the writer.

These were not only in the Journals, but also in the banners, publications and stationeries of the Association, its chapters and affiliates. Even the color schemes of these representations are confusing and appear in various hues. If I remember correctly, the local color and symbolism as approved by the Heraldry Committee for our Armed Forces Dental Service in 1956 when the AFP Dental Service was separated from the Medical Service as an autonomous unit and adopted by the PDA with minor modifications was endowed with nationalistic fervor. In my recollection the local color and symbolism were as follows:

The PDA Logo
The PDA Logo

* The Staff : Gold
* The Snake (Dahong Palay): Green
*Tagalog Letter (Da): Lavender (The color of Dentistry) Darker Hue
* Sampaguita Leaves : Green
* Sampaguita Flowers (our national flower) : White
* Philippine Dental Association : Gold
* Stars : Gold (representing Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao)
*Circle Border : (White)
* 1908 : White
* Background : Light Lavender
It is hoped that this article will somehow elicit a sense of unity. The above inconsistencies were observed during the author’s involvement with the Philippine Dental Association for almost fifty (50) years. As I said , I stand corrected. I sincerely would welcome any comments to refute or defend these observations, well as any other information relative to the confusion or evolution of our logo…

Let us agree and adopt “One Uniform Official Logo” and “color schemes” for the use of our Association, its Chapter/Affiliates, in our banners, publications and stationeries.