Religion in the Philippines

Religion in the Philippines

There are a number of religions that exist in the Philippines.

Ancient indigenous beliefs

Animism,for lack of better terminology, can be used to describe the indigenous spiritual traditions practiced by people in the Philippines during pre-colonial times. Today, only a handful of the indigenous tribes continue to practice it. It is a collection of beliefs and cultural mores anchored 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 respectedfact|date= April 2008 (and some feared) in the community, as they were healers, midwives ("hilot"), shamans, witches and warlocks ("mangkukulam"), priests/priestesses ("babaylan/catalonan"), tribal historians and wizened elders that provided the spiritual and traditional life of the community. In the Visayan regions, there is a belief in the existence of witchcraft or "barang" and mythical creatures such as the "aswang", "balay sa dwendi" and "Bakonawa", despite the existence of the 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.fact|date= April 2008 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.fact|date= April 2008 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.

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith in the Philippines started in 1921 with the first Bahá'í first visiting the Philippines that year,cite web | last =Hassall | first = Graham | last2 = Austria | first2 = Orwin | title = Mirza Hossein R. Touty: First Bahá'í known to have lived in the Philippines | work = Essays in Biography | publisher = Asia Pacific Bahá'í Studies | year = January 2000 | url = | accessdate = 2008-06-01] and by 1944 a Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was established.cite book |first=Shoghi |last=Effendi |authorlink=Shoghi Effendi |year=1944 |title=God Passes By |publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust |location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA |id=ISBN 0-87743-020-9 |url=] 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.Citation
authors = Universal House of Justice
title = In Memorium
journal = The Bahá'í World of the Bahá'í Era 136-140 (1979-1983)
volume = XVIII
publisher = Bahá'í World Centre
pages = Table of Contents and pp.513, 652-9
year = 1986
url =
isbn = 0853982341
] The Bahá'ís have been active in multi/inter-faith developments. No recent numbers are available on the size of the community.


Buddhism in the Philippines is largely confined to the Filipino Chinese, Chinese, Japanese,Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese communities. There are temples in Manila, Davao, and Cebu, and other places. According to the 2000 Philippine census, 0.1% of the population is Buddhist. [cite web
title=Religious Demographic Profile — Philippines
publisher=The PEW forum on Religion & Public Life
] Other sources claim different figures, however. The publication, "An Information Guide — Buddhism", for example, claims that as of 2007 Buddhists formed 2% of the total population. [cite web
title=An Information Guide — Buddhism
] Vajrayana (Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhist temples are present in the Philippines as well as meditation centers and groups such as Sokka Gakkai International cite web
title=History; Philippines
publisher=Sangha Pinoy
] Vajrayana (Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhist temples are present in the Philippines as well as meditation centers and groups such as Sokka Gakkai International


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 one of the two (perhaps three, considering South Korea's growing Christian population) predominantly Christian nations in East Asia, with approximately 90% of the population belonging to the Christian faith, the other Christian nation being East Timor.

Catholic Church

Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, with 81% 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 and Aguinaldo procession, where large crowds gather, honouring their patron saint/s. Processions and fiestas are conducted during feast days of the patron saints of various barrios or barangays.

Every year on October 31 to November 2, Filipino families celebrates the Day of the Dead or popularly known as "All Souls and Saints Day" which they spend much of the 3 days and 3 evenings visiting their ancestral graves, showing respect and honor to their departed relatives by feasting and offering prayers.

Christmas in the Philippines is a celebration spanning just more than the day itself. Many traditions and customs are associated with this grand feast, along with New Year.

Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the Neocatechumenal Way in the Philippines

The "El Shaddai" is a large Catholic Charismatic Renewal led by 'Brother Mike Velarde'. Other groups include "Couples for Christ", "Ligaya Ng Panginoon", "FAMILIA Community", "Bukas Loob Sa Diyos" etc.

The Neocatechumenal Way has a very large and rapidly expanding presence in the Philippines, especially in Luzon, Manila and the Visayan Islands, especially Panay. Nowadays there are more than seven hundred Neocatechumenal communities, the highest number in Asia and one of the highest numbers in the World.

Orthodox Church

Orthodoxy has been continuously present in the Philippines for more than 200 years. [cite web
title=Orthodox Christians in Philippines
publisher=Orthodox Church in the Philippines
] Today, Orthodox number at around 560.cite web
title=The Orthodox Church In The Philippines
author=Article Provided By Rev. Philemon Castro
publisher=Dimitris Papadias, Professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Hong Kong


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.

* Baptist Bible Fellowship in the Philippines (Baptist)
* Christian and Missionary Alliance)
* Church of the Foursquare Gospel in the Philippines (Pentecostal)
* Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines (Baptist)
* Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (Baptist)
* Jesus Is Lord Church (Pentecostal)
* Jesus Miracle Crusade (Pentecostal)
* Luzon Convention of Southern Baptists (Baptist)
* Mindanao and Visayas Convention of Southern Baptists (Baptist)
* The United Methodist Church (Methodist)
* United Church of Christ in the Philippines (Congregationalist Reformed)


The Philippine Independent Church, more commonly known as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, arose from a Catholic nationalist movement at the turn of the century. It is in full communion with the Philippine Episcopal Church, the rest of the Anglican Communion, and the Union of Utrecht

Most Holy Church of God in Christ Jesus

The Most Holy Church of God in Christ Jesus is a Philippine religious organization established in May, 1922 by Teofilo D. Ora. This church is also known in the country through its radio program Ang Kabanalbanalan which airs on several radio stations nationwide. [cite web |url= |title=List of websites of other Religions in the Philippines | |accessdate=2007-08-07] [cite web |url= |title=Christian Flags | |accessdate=2007-08-07]

Iglesia ni Cristo

An independent, unitarian religious organization founded by Felix Manalo in July 27, according to their Invitation in Pastors and Priest for the investiture of their founder on July 27,1914

Jehovah's Witnesses

Missionaries of the Jehovah's Witnesses arrived in the Philippines during the American Occupation (1898-1945). They have been involved in several court controversies because of their stand on flag-saluting and blood transfusions. They are best known by their preaching in pairs from house to house. Currently there are more than 150,000 members in the Philippines as of the year 2006.

Members Church of God International

The Members Church of God International, is a nontrinitarian religious organization known through its television program, Ang Dating Daan (ADD). This group is an offshoot of Nicholas Perez's Iglesia ng Diyos kay Kristo Hesus Haligi at Suhay ng Katotohanan (Church of God in Christ Jesus, Pillar and Support of the Truth). The split occurred after a woman was appointed as the presiding minister of the group after Perez's death. It is not related to the many Church of God groups that descended from the Barney Creek Meeting House revival of the late 1800s in the United States.


During the Spanish-American War in 1898, two men from Utah who were members of the United States artillery battery, and who were also set apart as missionaries by the Church before they left the United States, preached while stationed in the Philippines. Missionary work ceased in the Philippines at the beginning of World War II and resumed again in 1961. In 1969, the Church had spread to eight major islands and had the highest number of baptisms of any area in the Church. A temple was built in 1984 which located in Quezon City and another one which is under construction is in Cebu City. The Manila Missionary Training Center was established in 1983. Membership in 1984 was 76,000 and 237,000 in 1990. Membership was 572,619 in 2006.


The Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name was founded by Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy, claiming to be the appointed Son of God, on September 1, 1985. He started to preach in the slums of Villamor, Agdao, Davao City with only 15 members. The small-group fellowship grew until it had spread across the Philippines within a few years. Today, Kingdom Locale Congregations (KLCs) are in every barangay, municipality and city in the country.

This tremendous growth was brought about by the radio and television programs of Pastor Apollo. By the middle of 1991, the ministry came into the television mainstream with the first airing of the Hour of Truth, which later became “The Gospel of the Kingdom”.

eventh-day Adventist Church

The church founded by Ellen G. White which is best-known for its teaching that Saturday, the seventh day of the week, is the Sabbath, and that the second advent of Jesus Christ is imminent.


Islam reached the Philippines in the 14th century with the arrival of Malay and Javanese merchants and Arab missionaries from Malaysia and Indonesia, although the Islamization of the Philippines is due to the strength of Muslim India. India brought Islam to Southeast Asia, specifically Malaysia and Indonesia, and in turn the latter two brought Islam to the Philippines. Filipino Muslims make up about five percent of the population and are concentrated in the western portion of the island of Mindanao. The "Bangsamoro" or Muslim Nation, a term used to define the disparate ethnic groups that profess Islam in the Philippines as their religion, have been fighting the most protracted war of independence in world history. These include the Tausugs and the Maranaos. The Islamic separatist movement in the Philippines had been and is being waged for almost five centuries -- against the Spanish, the Americans, the Japanese and the predominantly Christian Filipinos of today's independent republic. Filipino Muslims follow the Sunni tradition.


Since the Spanish Era, Jews have been coming in and out of the islands but were unable to establish a substantial community. During World War II, their population reached 10,000 when Jews from Europe took shelter in Manila after escaping the Holocaust. The last Temple at Taft avenue corner Quirino was demolished in the 70's. They eventually left after the creation of Israel. As of 2005, the Jewish population in the Philippines stands at the very most 500 people.

ikhism and Hinduism

Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism has existed in the Philippines centuries. A great deal of Philippine mythology is derived from Hindu mythology. Many Filipino customs have strong Buddhist influences. Hinduism arrived when the Hindu religion and culture arrived from India by southern Indians to Southeast Asia from the 4th centuries to the 1300s. The same case can also be found in Buddhism since early Buddhist did follow many of the Hindu cosmology and Hindus themselves considered Buddha to be an avatar of their god, Vishnu. The Srivijaya Empire and Majapahit Empire on what is now Malaysia and Indonesia, introduced Hinduism and Buddhism to the islands [Citation
title=History of Buddhism
publisher= [ Buddhism in the Philippines]
] . Statues of Hindu-Buddhist gods have been found in the Philippines. [cite book|title=Some Aspects of Asia and Culture|publisher=Abhinav Publications|date=1986|last=Thakur|first=Upendra]

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.

Atheism and agnosticism

There is a growing population of atheists and agnostics living in the Philippines. They make up about less than 1% of the total population, but it's increasingly growing. [Zuckerman, Phil. "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns ", The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK 2005), p 53] . The first known atheists/freethinkers group in Manila is the Bertrand Russell Society Philippines, founded by Poch Suzara. [Citation |url= |title=Russel in the Philippines
author=Peter Stone | |accessdate=2008-03-16
] Discussions on atheism is 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).cn|date=March 2008 The Internet has also been key as medium of discussions on atheism. The first Internet forum on atheism by a Filipino is the [ Radioactive Atheist] mailing list by Jobert Cuevas and Jose Paraiso. This was later converted into a blog called [ Pinoy Atheist] . Today there are other atheist groups and blogs in the internet like "Pinoy Atheists", "Philippine Atheists and Atheista".

However atheists and agnostics in the Philippines suffer heavy discrimination in Filipino society and many secular Filipinos are often disowned, violently beaten up, fired from jobs, and is often equated to Satanism or anti-religion. Atheism is often used as a scapegoat on moral problems in Filipino society [] . Sometimes Pilipino atheists hide their non-belief and often seek asylum in other countries like Japan, United States, Europe, and Canada []

As of 2008 the Center for Inquiry has opened a [ Philippine Branch] headed by Joshua Lipana and Poch Suzara


"The following statistics are from the CIA Factbook and the 2000 census: [cite web|title=Philippines - People|url= |publisher=CIA Factbook|accessdate=2007-07-02]

*Christian: 90.3%
**"Roman Catholic:" 80.9%
**"Evangelical:" 2.8%
**"Iglesia ni Cristo:" 2.2%
**"Aglipayan:" 2%
**"other Christian:" 4.5%
*Muslim: 5%
*other: 1.8%
*unspecified: 0.6%
*none: 0.1%


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