Philippines Report


Seminar-Workshop on Asia-Pacific Forum for Library and Achives Management Training
Bangalore, India, UTC- June 1 - 30, 2004

The Philippines Church

A. Introduction
B. The Land
C. The People and their Culture
D. Religious Background

The story of the growth of Christianity in the Philippines began with the arrival of the Roman Catholic Christianity during Magellan’s visit to the islands in 1521. The sources for this period are archeological findings and scattered historical references to the Philippines in the records of nearby China.

1. Pre-Spanish History and Religion
When the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, the islands were inhabited by at least two distinctly different types of peoples: the Negrito and the Malayan. The Negritos were a small minority found mainly in the remote mountain regions. These people called the Aeta by the Tagalogs are Negroid pigmy people, nomadic food gatherers, who are treated with disdain by the more highly civilized Malayan group. They must have arrived in very early times, possibly traveling across then-existing land bridges connecting Borneo and the Philippines. Their language has been lost and their culture has been so modified by contact with other groups that their own primeval culture and beliefs cannot be reconstructed. There were probably many waves of migrations from different parts of Southeast Asia. Borneo, Java, Indochina and South China represent several probable points of origin.

Malayan migration brings Animism - In religion we also find common patterns which point to a common animistic religious heritage of all these peoples. Much of this basic animistic belief structure persists even to the present day.

Indian and Chinese Influences in Pre-Spanish Times – when the Spaniards arrived, in the 16th century, they did not find a country completely untouched by outside civilizations. Magellan had not been the first foreigner to set foot in Philippine soil. So Magellan did not discover the Philippines but arrived in the Philippines in 1521.
The first foreign contact probably was that of Indian traders, possibly as early as the 2nd century. In the 7th century the Sri-Vishaya Empire, of Buddhist orientation, rose in southeastern Borneo. This empire, expanding until about the 12th century, eventually dominated the major Island of western Indonesia, the Malay Peninsula, and possibly the Philippines and the southern part of Formosa (now Taiwan). It may have been from this empire that the central islands of the Philippines received their name, the Visayan (or Bisayan) Islands.
In the 13th century, the Sri-Vishayan Empire was destroyed by the rising Javanese Madjapahit Empire. This empire was Brahmanistic in character and for over a century exerted its influence upon Philippine life and religion.
Over the centuries the Chinese had enjoyed a brisk trade with the islands. They apparently came to know of them through Arab traders in about the 9th century. By the 13th century they dominated trade with the Philippines, their junks following a definite circular route around Southeast Asia. For a while Chinese interest, or power, seemed to drop off, but again in the 15th century, just before the trade-seeking ships from the West arrived, the Chinese made another attempt to dominate the entire region through trsde under the second Ming emperor, Yung Lo. Thus, when the Spanish arrived they found Chinese vessels trading, especially in and about Luzon and Mindoro. Chinese influence was greater in the area of material culture than in religion or social culture.

The Coming of Islam - the last of the major pre-Spanish influences to reach the Philippines. In its march eastward Islam had become securely established in India by A.D. 1200. About the middle of the 14th century an Arabian scholar, Makdum reached the Moluccas. He then moved to into the Mindanao-Sulu area and began to propagate the Moslem faith there in about1380. A Rajah Baginda from Sumatra arrived, followed a very important leader, Abu Bakr, who settled in Sulu in 1450 (only 70 years before Magellan arrived). Abu Bakr married a daughter of Rajah Baginda and declared himself sultan of the area, thus establishing the first Moslem sultanate in Sulu (points to the map) at the Southern tip of the Philippines.
Thus began the growth of Islam in the Philippines. Its influence in the South was profound. It introduced a new religion, a new religion, a new government and a new learning. Its influence spread and was beginning to make advances in Luzon, especially around Manila, when the
Spanish arrived there.

2. The Spanish Conquest – the arrival of Magellan and the coming of the Roman Catholic Christianity to the Philippines, 16th century. (March 16, 1521) 333 years under Spanish rule and Roman Catholicism

3. The Introduction and Growth of Protestant Chritianity, 1899 – 1946
On June 20, 1898, the Presbyterian and Methodist Board began consultations with both the Baptist and Methodist Board regarding the opening of a work in the Philippines. Meanwhile, although the Baptists and Methodists had informed the Presbyterians that they would not be able to enter the Philippines immediately, both were very concerned and took steps which soon led to the sending of missionaries from these two boards as well.

4. The Presbyterian Missions
From the very beginning it was the Presbyterian mission which showed special concern that Protestant mission work in the Philippines be conducted in a brotherly spirit of cooperation and non-competitiveness.


Contact Persons *

Mrs. Elizabeth T. Pulanco, Convenor, email:
Mr. Yesan Sellan, Secretary,,

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