Christianity in the Philippines

Christianity in the Philippines

Ask a question about 'Christianity in the Philippines'
Start a new discussion about 'Christianity in the Philippines'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
The Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, the other being East Timor
East Timor
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor , is a state in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor...

. About 93% of the population is Christian, about 5% are Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 and about 2% are other or none.


In the 1521, the Portuguese
Portuguese people
The Portuguese are a nation and ethnic group native to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian peninsula of south-west Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion....

 explorer Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer. He was born in Sabrosa, in northern Portugal, and served King Charles I of Spain in search of a westward route to the "Spice Islands" ....

 arrived in the Philippines while sailing for Spain in search of a route to the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

. Spanish and Portuguese explorers landed on the island of Limasawa in the Philippines.

At this time period, almost nothing was known to the west of the Philippines and so our sources of information about pre-Hispanic societies in the country date from the early period of Spanish contact. Most Philippine communities, with the exception of the Muslim sultanates in the Sulu Archipelago
Sulu Archipelago
The Sulu Archipelago is a chain of islands in the southwestern Philippines. This archipelago is considered to be part of the Moroland by the local rebel independence movement. This island group forms the northern limit of the Celebes Sea....

 and Mindanao
Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country, which consists of the island of Mindanao and smaller surrounding islands. The other two are Luzon and the Visayas. The island of Mindanao is called The...

, were fairly small without a great deal of centralized authority.

The absence of centralized power meant that a minority of Spanish explorers were able to convert a large number of indigenous tribes living in politically autonomous units more easily than they could have, say, converted people living in large, organized, complex kingdoms such as those Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

ized or (later) Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

 Buddhist-influenced kingdoms in mainland Southeast Asia, the Malay Peninsula
Malay Peninsula
The Malay Peninsula or Thai-Malay Peninsula is a peninsula in Southeast Asia. The land mass runs approximately north-south and, at its terminus, is the southern-most point of the Asian mainland...

 and the Indonesian Archipelago. The Spanish were unsuccessful in converting Muslim Sultanates to Christianity, and in fact warred with Muslim Filipinos throughout their 300 year colonial rule from 1521-1898. Nor did they successfully conquer certain highland areas, such the Luzon
Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name for one of the three primary island groups in the country centered on the Island of Luzon...

 highlands, where a diverse array of ethno-linguistic groups used their remote, difficult mountainous terrain to successfully avoid colonization.

Magellan's arrival in Mazzua represents the first attempt by Spain to convert the Indigenous tribes of the Philippines to Roman Catholicism. The story goes that Magellan met with Rajah Humabon of the island of Cebu, who had an ill grandson. Magellan (or one of his men) was able to cure or help this young boy, and in gratitude Chief Humabon allowed 800 of his followers to be 'baptized' Christian in a mass baptism. Later, Datu Lapu Lapu the chieftain of Mactan Island killed Magellan and defeated the Spaniards. This resistance to Western intrusion makes this story an important part of the nationalist history of the Philippines. Many historians have claimed that the Philippines peacefully 'accepted' Spanish rule; the reality is that many insurgencies and rebellions continued on small scales in different places through the Hispanic colonial period.

After Magellan, the Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi
Miguel López de Legazpi
Miguel López de Legazpi , also known as El Adelantado and El Viejo , was a Spanish conquistador who established one of the first European settlements in the East Indies and the Pacific Islands in 1565. He is the first Governor-General in the Philippines...

 arrived in the Philippines and he conquered a Muslim settlement in Manila in 1570. Islam had been present in the southern Philippines since some time between the 10th and 12th century. It slowly spread north throughout the archipelago, particularly in coastal areas.

See also

  • Roman Catholicism in the Philippines
    Roman Catholicism in the Philippines
    The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, in full communion with the Pope.With 73.8 million members in 2005, it is the predominant religion, making the Philippines the third largest "Catholic" nation in the world after Brazil and Mexico, as well as one...

  • History of Eastern Christianity in the Philippines
  • Iglesia ni Cristo
    Iglesia ni Cristo
    Iglesia ni Cristo also known as INC, is the largest entirely indigenous Christian religious organization that originated from the Philippines and the largest independent church in Asia. Due to a number of similarities, some Protestant writers describe the INC's doctrines as restorationist in...

  • Philippine Independent Church
    Philippine Independent Church
    The Philippine Independent Church, The Philippine Independent Church, The Philippine Independent Church, (officially the or the IFI, also known as the Philippine Independent Catholic Church or in Ilocano: Siwawayawaya nga Simbaan ti Filipinas (in in Kinaray-a/Hiligaynon: Simbahan Hilway nga...

  • Philippine Orthodox Church
    Philippine Orthodox Church
    The Philippine Orthodox Church refers to the officially established Eastern Orthodox presence in the Philippines as a whole. Currently, there are two canonical Orthodox jurisdictions:...

  • Protestants in the Philippines
    Protestants in the Philippines
    Protestant Christianity arrived in the Philippines during the late 19th century and the early 20th century. These denominations were introduced mostly by American missionaries at that time, although some were founded locally. The country has the world's 13th-largest Protestant population with...

Further reading

  • Fenella Cannell, 1999, Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • David J. Steinberg, 1982, The Philippines: A Singular and a Plural Place. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.