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Religions in the Philippines Essay

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Main Religions in the Philippines [1]

History + distrbution

Roman Catholic 80.9%, Muslim 5%, Evangelical 2.8%, Iglesia ni Kristo 2.3%, Aglipayan 2%, other Christian 4.5%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.6%, none 0.1% (2000 census)

The Philippines is a predominantly Christian nation on account of 300 years of Spanish rule. It is estimated that 81% of the population is Roman Catholic. In the south on the large island of Mindanao, many are adherents of Islam. Filipino Muslims make up about five percent of the national population.

There is a Philippine Independent Church, known as Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Aglipayan Church (after its first head Gregorio Aglipay); it is affiliated with the Anglican Communion.

Another independent church was founded in 1914 by Felix Manalo; it is a unitarian religious organization known as Iglesia ni Cristo.

Missionaries of the Jehovah’s Witnesses arrived in the Philippines during the American colonial rule (1898-1945). There are now 150,000 members in the country.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have 600,000 Mormon members in the Philippines.

Animism or folk religion encompassing indigenous spiritual traditions from pre-colonial times still prevail even among baptized members of formal churches. Supersitious beliefs are widespread. [2]

Religion culture + history

The pre-Hispanic belief system of Filipinos consisted of a pantheon of gods,
spirits, creatures, and men that guarded the streams, fields, trees, mountains, forests, and houses. Bathala, who created earth and man, was superior to these other gods and spirits. Regular sacrificesand prayers were offered to placate these deities and spirits–some of which were benevolent, some malevolent. Wood and metal images represented ancestral spirits, and no distinction was made between the spirits and their physical symbol. Reward or punishment after death was dependent upon behavior in this life.

Anyone who had reputed power over the supernatural and natural wasautomatically elevated to a position of prominence. Every village had its share of shamans and priests who competitively plied their talents and carried on ritual curing. Many gained renown for their ability to develop anting-anting, a charm guaranteed to make a person invincible in the face of human enemies. Other sorcerers concocted love potions or produced amulets that made their owners invisible.

Upon this indigenous religious base two foreign religions were introduced — Islam and Christianity — and a process of cultural adaptation and synthesis began that is still evolving. Spain introduced Christianity to the Philippines in 1565 with the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. Earlier, beginning in 1350, Islam had been spreading northward from Indonesia into the Philippine archipelago. By the time the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, Islam was firmly established on Mindanao and Sulu and had outposts on Cebu and Luzon. At the time of the Spanish arrival, the Muslim areas had the highest and most politically integrated culture on the islands and, given more time, would probably have unified the entire archipelago. Carrying on their historical tradition of expelling the Jews and Moros [Moors] from Spain (a commitment to eliminating any non-Christians), Legaspi quickly dispersed the Muslims from Luzon and the Visayan islands and began the process of Christianization. Dominance over the Muslims on Mindanao and Sulu, however, was never achieved during three centuries of Spanish rule. During American rule in the first half of this century the Muslims were never totally pacified during the so-called “Moro Wars.” Since independence, particularly in the last decade, there has been resistance by large segments of the Muslim population to national integration. Many feel, with just
cause, that integration amounts to cultural and psychological genocide. For over 10 years the Moro National Liberation Front has been waging a war of secession against the Marcos government.

While Islam was contained in the southern islands, Spain conquered and converted the remainder of the islands to Hispanic Christianity. The Spanish seldom had to resort to military force to win over converts, instead the impressive display of pomp and circumstance, clerical garb, images, prayers, and liturgy attracted the rural populace. To protect the population from Muslim slave raiders, the people were resettled from isolated dispersed hamlets and brought “debajo de las companas” (under the bells), into Spanish organized pueblos. This set a pattern that is evident in modern Philippine Christian towns. These pueblos had both civil and ecclesiastical authority; the dominant power during the Spanish period was in the hands of the parish priest. The church, situated on a central plaza, became the locus of town life. Masses, confessions, baptisms, funerals, marriages punctuated the tedium of everyday routines. The church calendar set the pace and rhythm of daily life according to fiesta and liturgical seasons. Market places and cockfight pits sprang up near church walls. Gossip and goods were exchanged and villagers found “both restraint and release under thebells.” The results of 400 years of Catholicism were mixed — ranging from a deep theological understanding by the educated elite to a more superficial understanding by the rural and urban masses. The latter is commonly referred to as Filipino folk Christianity, combining a surface veneer of Christian monotheism and dogma with indigenous animism. It may manifest itself in farmers seeking religious blessings on the irrice seed before planting or in the placement of a bamboo cross at the comer of a rice field to prevent damage by insects. It may also take the form of a folk healer using Roman Catholic symbols and liturgy mixed with pre-Hispanic rituals. Ancient indigenous beliefs [3]

History + country culture

During pre-colonial times, a form of animism was widely practiced in the Philippines. Today, the Philippines is mostly Catholic and Christian, and only a handful of the indigenous tribes continue to practice the old
traditions. These are a collection of beliefs and cultural mores anchored more or less in the idea that the world is inhabited by spirits and supernatural entities, both good and bad, and that respect be accorded to them through nature worship. These spirits all around nature are known as “diwatas”, showing cultural relationship with Hinduism (Devatas).

Some worship specific deities, such as the Tagalog supreme deity, Bathala, and his children Adlaw, Mayari, and Tala, or the Visayan deity Kan-Laon; while others practice Ancestor worship (anitos). Variations of animistic practices occur in different ethnic groups. Magic, chants and prayers are often key features. Its practitioners were highly respected[4] (and some feared) in the community, as they were healers, midwives (hilot), shamans, witches and warlocks (mangkukulam), priests/priestesses (babaylan/katalonan), tribal historians and wizened elders that provided the spiritual and traditional life of the community. In the Visayan regions, shamanistic and animistic beliefs in witchcraft (barang) and mythical creatures like aswang (vampires), duwende (dwarves), and bakonawa (a gigantic sea serpent), may exist in some indigenous peoples alongside more mainstream Christian and Islamic faiths.

In general, the spiritual and economic leadership in many pre-colonial Filipino ethnic groups was provided by women, as opposed to the political and military leadership according to men.[citation needed] Spanish occupiers during the 16th century arrived in the Philippines noting about warrior priestesses leading tribal spiritual affairs. Many were condemned as pagan heretics. Although suppressed, these matriarchal tendencies run deep in Filipino society and can still be seen in the strong leadership roles modern Filipino women are assuming in business, politics, academia, the arts and in religious institutions.

Folk religion remains a deep source of comfort, belief and cultural pride among many Filipinos.[citation needed] Nominally animists constitute about one percent of the population. But animism’s influence pervade daily life and practice of the colonial religions that took root in the Philippines. Elements of folk belief melded with Christian and Islamic practices to give
a unique perspective on these religions. Reference:

[1]: http://tagaloglang.com/Filipino-Culture/Religion/religion-in-the-philippines.html

[2]: http://asiasociety.org/countries/religions-philosophies/religion-philippines

[3]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Philippines