Faith has been a huge rock that Filipinos have been clinging to for hundreds of years, making it no surprise at all that even up to this day, Christianity and Catholicism continue to reign in the hearts of Filipinos. What does faith in the Philippines look like? In fact, the island of Cebu, which is a glorious Philippine island found in the central Visayas region, has been dubbed as the Cradle of Christianity in Southeast Asia, as it has gone on to plant itself prominently, and has continued to grow and prosper. As history illustrates it, the introduction of Roman Catholicism and Christianity dates back to as early as the 1500’s when Spanish and Portuguese explorers stumbled across the Philippine Islands, particularly in Leyte and Cebu. They brought with them the image of the Santo Niño (Holy Child) and gave them to the natives, paving the way for Roman Catholicism in the country.
Culture and Tradition
Since then, belief in God has pretty much influenced the everyday life that Filipinos have, from Catholic holidays to eating Christian food and even to holy festivals. Christmas season harbors the traditional Simbang Gabi (or dawn mass) while the Lenten season has the reenactment of the Passion of the Christ. Indeed in each of these customs, the people’s faith in God burns ever bright.
Though despite the prominence of Catholicism in the Philippines which is about 80%, other religions are also quite abundant in the different parts of the country. About 11% comprise the Protestants and other independent denominations, such as Iglesia ni Cristo, Seventh-day Adventist Church, United Church of Christ in the Philippines and Evangelicals, while about 6% of the population of the Philippines is Muslim.
Each of these religious practices their respective traditions and offer prayers to God as part of their day-to-day lives. But despite this barrier though, a common denominator for them all is that they believe in a higher being whom they worship and trust with their lives each and every day.
Relationship with religions such as Iglesia ni Cristo, Protestants, Born Again Christians, etc.
Christians, in general, tend to get along well with other Christian denominations. They certainly believe in one God and the teachings of the Bible, although the differences lie in their practices and whether or not they also believe in prominent characters in the Bible like the Virgin Mary, the apostles and those whom the Catholics consider as saints.
There haven’t really been any harmful disputes among Christian groups in the country, thankfully, since they live peacefully with each other and their misunderstandings are pretty minute. They mostly just question the close differences in their religions, different preachings and mass rituals on why they believe in this aspect while not believing in the other, and why this group deviates from the other that way.
This is usually observed in schools where there is a mixture of students with different Christian religions. At most, it’s just harmless banter in an effort to understand the other, yet what matters is their unifying belief in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Bible.
Relationship with Muslims
The Muslim population stands currently at about 6% and has been known to plant its roots in Philippine soils as early as the 13th century in Mindanao, Palawan, and Sulu. Muslim traders from the Persian Gulf and the Malay Archipelago were responsible for bringing Islam into the country, which is the oldest recorded monotheistic religion in the Philippines.
Early records state that Catholics and Muslims weren’t exactly on the best terms and share quite the bumpy roads the past 400 years or so. This rift between them started (as usual) with the Spaniards who came and preached the Roman Catholic doctrine, who also wanted to make the whole Philippines a Roman Catholic country. They looked down on Muslims and discriminated them, enforcing a disgusting mindset which has unfortunately persisted for many years. This tactic of pitting the Christians against the Muslims is for them to gain further command and control over the natives.
Luckily enough, the beauty of humanity and its goodness has managed to crack the barrier and defy expectations between Muslims and Christians. News all around the world and in the Philippines show that religion itself does not make us; instead, our values learned and our inherent desire to do good will always prevail. Some beautiful examples of the news include Muslims helping in the rebuilding of the Catholic Church or Christians helping in the rebuilding of Marawi City which recently experienced havoc due to terrorists.
ISIS and the Marawi Siege
Speaking of Marawi City, which is a beautiful place filled with the richness of Muslim history and culture, it is as of the moment recovering from the recent debacle caused by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militant groups and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Salafi jihadist groups. The Battle of Marawi lasted for five months due to the hungry desire of terrorists to claim the city. Mosques, schools, historical landmarks and even ordinary homes have been placed in the line of fire, causing heartbreaking destruction not only to the Muslim community but in the hearts of fellow Filipinos as well.
The catastrophe has gained international attention, with people all over the world (both Muslims and Christians) quick to offer their help. The Philippine government has also done its part in liberating Marawi, led by President Duterte, the AFP, PNP, and even religious groups including Catholic leaders, priests and ministers were very quick to respond and help out. Fortunately, efforts done to push through with the execution of terrorists led by the Maute brothers and their loyalists were fruitful.
Marawi is now slowly but surely rebuilding itself back to its former glory. In fact, even up to the present day, donations and offerings are still pouring in to help the families and residents in need.
Keeping faith as a young adult Christian in the Philippines
With everything that’s been going on in the country and in the whole world, I can say that the times have indeed changed and that as a young adult living in this modern world, the road to keeping and maintaining a strong faith in God is a difficult and tricky path to trek on. With what we have now, all the technology and gadget upgrades and the passing of old habits and traditions, we are indeed giving a chance for more aspects of temptation to enter and affect our faith. Although not everyone is as easily tempted, a lot of the people these days especially kids look up to what is seen on the world wide web, and they tend to believe and get influenced easily by these.
As a young adult, I am at the crucial point in life wherein I am faced with a choice, on whether or not I decide to grow up and become mature enough when handling life’s decisions. It is at this stage where I am now responsible for my own choices that should be in compliance with our faith in God and the teachings of our Church.