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Religions of the Philippines
Paoay Church, UNESCO Heritage in Ilocos Norte
The Golden Mosque in Manila
A "Bulul" guarding the Banaue Rice Terraces
The Philippines: the biggest asian Christian/Catholic country
Majority of Filipinos (92%) are of Christian Faith. In general, they are considered Catholic and consider themselves as such.
Anyway, around 10% of these Christians adhere to Protestant or other alternative Christian Churches and Movements, like Iglesia Ni Cristo, Adventist Church, Evangelicals and others. Often people practicing their religion habits with Protestant Churches do not give up on Catholic traditions and still get baptized as well as receive the other sacraments within the Catholic Church, though preferring to join celebrations and prayers with Protestant Churches.
Separation of the State and Church are officially stated in the Constitution of the Philippines. At the same time, the Philippines is famous as one of the most traditionalist Catholic countries, where abortion is still illegal. It is also the only country in the world (excluding the Vatican) where divorce is still forbidden.
Being a population of more than 100 million people, the Philippines is the biggest Catholic and Christian country of Asia. The Philippines and the much smaller Timor Leste are the only 2 Asian Countries where the majority of the population is of Christian/Catholic faith.
The Muslim minority
5.6% of the population is Muslim as of 2010 data. However other data indicate Muslim population as equal of 11% of the population (see Wikipedia). Most of the Muslim Filipinos live in the Mindanao Region, the most southern part of the country, and are Sunni. Before the Spanish colonization, Muslim faith was more spread also in the Northern part of the country, and even prevalent in the capital Manila (that was under the control of the Sultan of Brunei). After the arrival of the colonizers many Muslims moved to the South of the country. Anyway, Muslim minorities are still quite present also in Manila and other cities of the North.
Indigenous and Tribal Religions and Traditions
Other indigenous/tribal religions are practiced, mostly by tribal groups. They were predominant before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers, whom imposed Christianity to the locals. Historicians often stressed that the conversion of Filipinos to Christianity was quite rapid. Anyway, it’s not so easy to quantify how many people still practice the traditional pre-colonial religions, since they are still strongly present in habits and traditions of many tribal groups, especially those located far from the urban life and in remote areas, which experienced limited interactions with the colonizers.
A famous example is the Ifugao Region, where most of the people officially embraced Christianity though still practice traditional ceremonies belonging to their ancient religions and beliefs, with reverence given to the “Bulul”, the rice guardian that has both a role as “rice god” and of the spirit of the ancestors. The ancient Ifugao traditions are studied by many anthropologists and are often considered the most peculiar of the country.
They can be observed visiting the wonderful Banaue Rice Terraces.
Chinese Heritage and other minorities
The strong presence of families with Chinese ancestry kept the presence of minorities practicing Taoism and other Chinese folk religions, as well as Buddhism (practiced also by some people of Japanese origins).
Also people of Chinese origins are usually following Christianity and their influences can be observed in several ancient churches, especially in the North of the Philippines, that are built with Chinese-style techniques (including with pagoda-looking bell towers: see Paoay Church above). Also religious statues like those representing the Virgin Mary sometimes are depicted with “Chinese-shaped” eyes.
Other religions exist in the country, though they are very small minorities (i.e. Hindi).
We can say that the religions of the Philippines also reflect its multicultural history and culture.
A Buddhist temple in Quezon City (Metro Manila)