Religious Beliefs and Spirituality in Philippines

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The Philippines, alongside East Timor, are the only countries in Asia that are pre-dominantly Christian. Over 86% of the citizens in the Philippines are Roman Catholics while 9% practice different Protestant denominations. 5% of the country’s population practices Islam and the remaining percent practices Buddhism or animistic beliefs. It is important to note that Christianity has been the main faith in the country from as early as 1565 from the start of the Spanish colonial era. The belief has, however, been combined with customary animistic practices and beliefs that have given Catholicism in the Philippines a special nationwide personality. Religion in this country is more than a theoretical belief system. This is because it is viewed as a cluster of common experiences, customs and ceremonials that offers the community harmony, links between people who are not related and more family bonds of different nature. Religion, therefore, has sturdy economic and political bonds and overtones.

San Augustin ChurchThere is another feature of religion in the Philippines that is common to all beliefs be it Islam, Catholic, or Protestant. This is the fact that it incorporates animistic practices and experiences openly. An example of this is when the Spanish came to the country during the 16th century. The Majority of the natives worshiped a number of nature spirits who were believed to bring good fortune or harm. These spirits have to be contacted by religious leaders referred to as Shamans to shun danger and to bring about wealth. The locals believed that bad fortune and sickness originated from malicious spirit and that good weather, numerous kids, and fine yields originated from kind spirits, mostly in the appearance of ancestors. As the locals switched to Christianity, they merely shifted these beliefs to the Catholic Church and the spirits turned into saints, Mass, and its customs were used rather than traditional customs, and the priests were the new intercessors between the locals, the Saints and God. This is similar to Islam as it has absorbed different aspects and the faithful offer gifts to the spirits who they believe can aid them with crops, health, and family, and integrate customary aspects into customs like birth, marriage, and death.

With this is mind, this article goes on to discuss some of the religious beliefs present in the Philippines.

Christianity in the Philippines

Christianity was introduced to the Philippines by Spain when Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in 1565 and this led to the colonization of the country by Spain which laid claim on the land. The Spaniards then introduced Roman Catholicism to the locals. This is now the dominant religion in the country with about 80% of the entire population practicing this faith. The country has adopted a lot of significant traditions from Spanish Catholic, and Spanish Catholicism style is deeply entrenched in the country’s culture.

Besides Catholicism, there are other Filipinos who practice Protestantism. This religious belief was introduced in the Philippines when Spanish rule ended and American rule began in the country. The reasons for the United States to colonize the country were to democratize and Christianize which could only be attained via education of the masses. The majority of the teachers coming to the country were Protestants and Protestants priests. This group was able to exert a sturdy influence because it organized and managed the public education system in the country. They were, however, not able to convert a lot of people and conversion mostly took place among local people who had not been converted to Catholicism earlier on. Presently, 8-9% of the total population practice Protestantism and most of these do not belong to the typical Protestant churches but to evangelical and fundamentalist churches. The Protestant missionaries may not have been able to convert many locals to this religious belief, but they had a lot of influence on the country with regards to medicine and education. These churches built schools, hospitals, and clinics and aroused the establishment of others. The churches were also accountable for the establishment of institutions that have become important universities and colleges such as the Silliman University, Dansalan Junior College, Central Philippine University, and the Philippine Christian College.

Holy Week procession in Angeles CityA small percentage also practices Orthodoxy which has been present in the country for over 200 years. This religious belief is characterized by two main groups: the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Mission and the Exarchate of the Philippines. Presently, approximately 560 citizens practice this faith.

Islam in the Philippines

By the year 2013, as per the CIA World Factbook, the population of citizens practicing Islam in the Philippines stood at 5%. The religion was first introduced in the country in the 14th century by Muslim traders who came from Southern India and the Persian Gulf. These were accompanied by their followers from a number of sultanate regimes in the Southeast Maritime Asia. This religion had firm roots in areas such as Sulu, Mindanao, Luzon and Cebu and also the coastline of Manila Bay which was home to a number of Muslim realms. When the Spanish conquered the country, Islam rapidly declined as the main monotheistic religion in the country. This was a result of the introduction of Catholicism by Spain.

Most of the Muslims in this country practice Sunni Islam which is in the Shafi school of jurisprudence. There are other small minority Islam groups such as the Ahmadiyya and Shiite. Islam, like Christianity, adopted a lot of the local aspects such as the Muslim women playing a strong role in the community like they did in the old community. Most of the Muslims in Philippine practice the five pillars of Islam which include confession of faith, praying daily, giving of alms, fasting and pilgrimage. They also go to Quran institutions and take part in Islam holidays.

Buhddism in the Philippines

This religious belief made its way into the Philippines with the arrival of the Srivijaya Empire from Malaysia which gained status in the country. This took place between the 7th to the 13th century. Later on, between the 14th to the 20th century, the Indian and Chinese traders arrived in the Philippines and brought with them Buddhist iconography and knowledge. Several artifacts from that era such as the Golden Tara, the golden-vessel kinnari, the garuda and many more are a clear indication that this religious belief was practiced in the country especially in the Luzon, Cebu, Palawan, and Mindanao islands. Presently, about 2% of Filipinos practice this religious belief.

Hinduism in the Philippines

Religious Iconography for Sale in BoholThis faith was also introduced to the Philippines by the Srivijaya Empire from Malaysia and the Majapahit Empire from Indonesia. The country was under the control of the Hindu Gujarati and Tamil people and merchants from Indonesia. Indian religious belief, which was probably a combined edition of Hindu-Buddhist found its way into the Philippines during the 1st millennium via the Srivijaya kingdom followed by the Majapahit kingdom.

This religious belief is mostly limited to the Indian Filipinos and the emigrant Indian society. This is despite the fact that most customary spiritual beliefs in most regions of the country have sturdy Buddhist and Hindu influences. There is, however, some growth in this faith although the majority of the temples cater to the same societies. There are a number of Hindu temples in Manila and the provinces as well. A number of Hindu groups can be found in the country. These groups include the Paramahansa Yogananda, Sai Baba, and the Hare Krishna groups.

Judaism in the Philippines

From as early as the 1590s a few Jews were documented to have fled the Inquisition and came to the Philippines. By 2005 the number of Filipino Jews was roughly 18,500 and by 2011, Metro Manila recorded the largest number of the Jewish society in the country. The country has only one synagogue, the Beth Yaacov, situated in Makati. There are more Jews in the country but their number is relatively small compared to the other religions. The existence of people practicing this faith is almost completely unheard of in the society.

Messianic religious movement

Besides the religious beliefs mentioned above, there are a number of messianic religious movements. These movements have developed organizations that are long lasting. Most of these movements usually share an ideology that the world is coming to an end at a very fast pace. They also display contempt and mistrust of the current way of life, encourage mystical beliefs of different types, and carry out their operations with a dictatorial enigmatic messiah stature around which the movements are structured. A lot of the local people have been trapped in these movements which offer them a regenerated sense of the society in the face of fast societal transformations.

There are two common religious movements in the country. These include the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. This was established by Gregorio Aglipay who had support Emilio Aguinaldo who was a radical leader during the revolution against the Spanish and the clashes with forces from America towards the end of the 19th century. The other movement is the Iglesia ni Cristo which was established by Felix Manalo Ysagun in 1914. In current years, the Iglesia ni Cristo, which is a dictatorial and puritanical church, has grown a lot and started churches across the globe in the Philippines Diaspora.

These are the common religious beliefs in the country but other practices such as Taoism and Confucianism are also practiced in the Philippines.

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