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Life in the Philippines
Religion in the Philippines is marked by a wide range of strongly-held spiritual beliefs. Religion holds a central place in the life of the majority of Filipinos, including Catholics, Aglipayans, Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, animists, and Hindus. It is central not as an abstract belief system, but rather as a host of experiences —rituals and adjurations that provide continuity in life, communal cohesion and moral purpose for existence. Religious associations are part of the system of vital kinship ties, patron-client bonds and other relationships outside the nuclear family.
Christianity and Islam have been superimposed on ancient traditions and acculturated. The unique religious blends that have resulted, when combined with the strong personal faith of Filipinos, have given rise to numerous and diverse revivalist movements. Generally characterised by anti-modern bias, supernaturalism, and authoritarianism in the person of a charismatic messianic figure, these movements have attracted thousands of Filipino people, especially in areas like Mindanao, which have been subjected to extreme pressure of change over a short period of time. Many have been swept up in these movements, out of a renewed sense of fraternity and community. Like the highly visible examples of flagellation and reenacted crucifixion in the Philippines, these movements may seem to have little in common with organised Christianity or Islam. In the intensely personalistic Philippine religious context, however, these are less aberrations and more of extreme examples of religion's retaining its central role in society.
Animism, is the term used to describe the indigenous spiritual traditions practiced in the Philippines during pre-colonial times. Today, a handful of the indigenous tribes continue to practice it. The traditions 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 (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. 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. 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.
The Bahá'í Faith in the Philippines started in 1921 with the first Bahá'í first visiting the Philippines that year, and by 1944 a Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was established. In the early 1960s, during a period of accelerated growth, the community grew from 200 in 1960 to 1000 by 1962 and 2000 by 1963. In 1964 the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the Philippines was elected and by 1980 there were 64,000 Bahá'ís and 45 local assemblies. The Bahá'ís have been active in multi/inter-faith developments. The 2005 World Christian Encyclopedia estimates the Bahá'í population of the Philippines at about 247,500.
Christianity arrived in the Philippines with the landing of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. In the late 16th century, soldiers and missionaries firmly planted the seeds of conversion when they officially claimed the archipelago for Spain and named it after their king. Missionary activity during the country's long colonial rule by Spain and the United States transformed the Philippines into the first and then one of the two predominantly Christian nations in East Asia, with approximately 90% of the population belonging to the Christian faith, the other Christian nation being East Timor.
Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion and the largest Christian denomination, with estimates of approximately 80% of the population belonging to this faith in the Philippines. The country has a significant Spanish Catholic tradition, and Spanish style Catholicism is highly embedded in the culture, which was acquired from priests or friars (prayle in Filipino). This is shown in traditions such as Misa de Gallo, Black Nazarene procession, Santo Niño Festivals (Santo Niño de Cebu, Ati-Atihan and others) and Aguinaldo procession, where large crowds gather, honouring their patron saint or saints. Processions and fiestas are conducted during feast days of the patron saints of various barrios or barangays.
Every year on November 1, Filipino families celebrate the Day of the Dead, on which they spend much of the day and evening visiting their ancestral graves, showing respect and honor to their departed relatives by feasting and offering prayers. On November 1 Filipino families celebrate All Saint's Day, where they honor the saints of the Catholic Church. November 2 is All Soul's Day.
Christmas in the Philippines is a celebration spanning just more than the day itself. Christmas season starts in September. Many traditions and customs are associated with this grand feast, along with New Year. Holy Week is also an important time for the country's Catholics. To help spread the gospel, the Roman Catholic Church established the Catholic Media Network with its main TV station TV Maria as a tool for evangelization. Other large Roman Catholic television channels like Eternal Word Television Network and Familyland are also available and watched in the Philippines.
Philippine Independent Church more commonly known as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, is a Christian denomination of the Catholic tradition in the form of a national church. Its separation from the Roman Catholic Church was proclaimed by the members of the first federation of labor unions in the country, the Union Obrera Democratica in 1902. Isabelo de los Reyes was one of the initiators of the separation of the church and suggested that Gregorio Aglipay be the head of the church. It is also known as the Aglipayan Church, after its first Supreme Bishop, Gregorio Aglipay.
It is the second largest Christian denomination in the Philippines, after the Roman Catholic Church, which has parishes and churches around the Philippines and parishes around the United States, Canada Europe, mostly in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland and England and in Asia mostly in Northeast & Middle East. The total membership counts vary from more than 6 million members. It is in full communion with the Philippine Episcopal Church, the rest of the Anglican Communion, and the Union of Utrecht.
The Apostolic Catholic Church (ACC) is a catholic denomination founded in the 1980s in Hermosa, Bataan. It formally separated in the Roman Catholic Church in 1992 when Patriarch Dr. John Florentine Teruel registered it as a Protestant and Independent Catholic denomination. Today, it has more than 5 million members worldwide. The largest international congregations are in Japan, USA and Canada.
Orthodoxy has been continuously present in the Philippines for more than 200 years. It is represented by two groups, by the Exarchate of the Philippines (a jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople governed by the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia), and by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Mission in the Philippines (a jurisdiction of the Antiochian Orthodox Church governed by the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania). Today, there are about 560 Orthodox in the Philippines.
Protestantism arrived in the Philippines with the coming of the Americans at the turn of the 20th century. In 1898, Spain lost the Philippines to the United States. After a bitter fight for independence against its new occupiers, Filipinos surrendered and were again colonized. The arrival of Protestant American missionaries soon followed. Protestant church organizations established in the Philippines during the 20th century include the following:
Iglesia ni Cristo is an indigenous religious organization that originated from the Philippines. The church was founded by Felix Manalo when he officially registered the church with the Philippine Government with him as executive minister on July 27, 1914 and because of this, most publications refer to him as the founder of the church. Felix Manalo claims that he is restoring the church of Christ that was lost for 2,000 years. The Iglesia ni Cristo is widely regarded as very influential due to their ability to deliver votes through block voting during elections. Their membership is not released in public but is estimated over 3 million.
Islam reached the Philippines in the 14th century with the arrival of Malay and Javanese merchants and Muslim merchants from Malaysia and Indonesia, although the spreading of Islam in the Philippines is due to the commercial contacts between the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia. It was the merchants of the Gulf – Arabs, Persians, Sindhis, Azeris and even Pashtuns – who brought Islam to Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. There are about 5 to 10 million Muslims in the Philippines, approximately 5-10% of the total population. Muslims make up about 20 percent of the population of the island of Mindanao, approximately 5 million of the 25 million people on Mindanao.
Even since the 1590s some Jews fleeing from The Inquisition were recorded to have come to the Philippines. As of 2005, Filipino Jews number at the very most 500 people. As of 2011[update], Metro Manila boasts the largest Jewish community in the Philippines, which consists of roughly 100 families.
The country's only synagogue, Beth Yaacov, is located in Makati. There are, of course, other Jews elsewhere in the country, but these are obviously fewer and almost all transients, either diplomats or business envoys, and their existence is almost totally unknown in mainstream society. There are a few Israelis in Manila recruiting caregivers for Israel, some work in call centers, businessmen and a few other executives. A number are converts to Judaism.
Today Hinduism is largely confined to the Indian Filipinos and the expatriate Indian community. Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhism, which are very close to Hinduism, are practiced by Tibetans, Sri Lankan, Burmese and Thai nationals. There are Hindu temples in Manila, as well as in the provinces. There are temples also for Sikhism, sometimes located near Hindu temples. The two Paco temples are well known, comprising a Hindu temple and a Sikh temple.
Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism has existed in the Philippines for centuries. A great deal of Philippine mythology is derived from Hindu mythology. Hinduism arrived when the Hindu religion and culture arrived from India by southern Indians to Southeast Asia from the 4th centuries to the 14th century. The Srivijaya Empire and Majapahit Empire on what is now Malaysia and Indonesia, introduced Hinduism and Buddhism to the islands. Statues of Hindu-Buddhist gods have been found in the Philippines.
Many Filipino customs have strong Buddhist influences. Buddhism in the Philippines is growing fast, mainly because of increasing immigration to the country. Buddhism is largely confined to the Filipino Chinese, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese communities though local adherents are on the rise. There are temples in Manila, Davao, and Cebu, and other places. Several schools of Buddhism are present in the Philippines – Mahayana, Vajrayana, Theravada, as well as groups such as Soka Gakkai International.
Phil Zuckerman estimated in 2007 that slightly less than 1% of the population of the Philippines were atheist, while the Dentsu Communication Institute Inc., Research Centre for Japan said in 2006 that about 11% of the population are irreligious.
Discussions on atheism are active in academic institutions such as the University of the Philippines. One of the well known atheist organizations in UP is UPAC (University of the Philippines Atheist Circle).
The advent of the Internet revolution in the 1990s was a landmark in Philippine atheism. A lot of Filipino atheist went "out" and started posting their atheism on their personal blogs. There were also groups that came out, such as "Radioactive atheist", a Yahoo atheist group created by Joebert Cuevas, Aleksi Gumela and Jose Juan "John" Paraiso in November 2002. Today there are a lot of atheist blogs and forums created by Filipinos. One of the first is Pinoy Atheist. Jose Juan “John” Paraiso created it on Feb 2005.
On February 2009, Filipino Freethinkers was formed. The group, composed mostly of atheists, agnostics, and humanists, has daily discussions through its online channels, with a combined membership of more than 200 members spread across their mailing list, forum, and social networking group. Aside from weekly meetings, they have held two open forums, with a combined attendance of over 100 members.
Since March 20, 2011, the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society is holding its OUT Campaigns in Rizal Park and Quezon Memorial Circle. Also it held two feeding programs "Good without Religion" in Bacoor, Cavite. The society also is a member affiliate and associate of various international atheist organizations such as the Atheist Alliance International, Institute for Science and Human Values, and the International Humanist and Ethical Union, as one among secular organizations that promotes free thought and scientific development in the Philippines.
The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines declares: The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable. (Article II, Section 6), and, No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights. (Article III, Section 5). Joaquin Bernas, a Filipino Jesuit specializing in constitutional law, acknowledges that there were complex issues that were brought to court and numerous attempts to use the separation of Church and State against the Roman Catholic Church, but he defends the statement, saying that the fact that he [Marcos] tried to do it does not deny the validity of the separation of church and state[not in citation given].
On April 28, 2004, the Philippines Supreme Court reversed the ruling of a lower court ordering five religious leaders to refrain from endorsing a candidate for elective office. Manila Judge Conception Alarcon-Vergara ruled that the "head of a religious organization who influences or threatens to punish members could be held liable for coercion and violation of citizen's right to vote freely". The lawsuit filed by Social Justice Society party stated that "the Church’s active participation in partisan politics, using the awesome voting strength of its faithful flock, will enable it to elect men to public office who will in turn be forever beholden to its leaders, enabling them to control the government". They claimed that this violates the Philippine constitution's separation of Church and State clause. The named respondents were Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila Jaime Cardinal Sin, El Shaddai Movement Leader Mike Velarde, Iglesia ni Cristo executive minister Eraño Manalo, Jesus Is Lord Church leader Eddie Villanueva and Members Church of God International leader Eliseo Soriano. Manalo's Iglesia ni Cristo practices bloc voting. Cardinal Sin was instrumental in rallying support for the assumption to power of Corazon Aquino and Gloria Arroyo. Velarde supported Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo while Villanueva endorsed Fidel Ramos and Jose De Venecia. The papal nuncio agreed with the decision of the lower court while the other respondents challenged the decision.
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