Christianity in the Philippines

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Symbol of Roman Catholicsm

Christianity is the predominant religion in the Philippines, with an estimated 85% of the population being Roman Catholics, 10% Muslim, and 5% belonging to other religions. The Philippines is the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia.

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History

Christianity was introduced in the Philippines during the 1500s, with the arrival of the Spanish colonizers. Prior to that, native religious practices were animistic in nature, revolving around the veneration of departed ancestors and a variety of nature spirits. In the southern Philippines, Islam had already become firmly established.

Magellan's Cross: The first christian symbol in the Philippines

The arrival in Cebu of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan under the flag of Spain heralded the first attempt to Christianize the country. The Spanish converted a number of Filipinos, including Rajah Humabon's people, with mass baptisms.

After Magellan, Spain sent Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, who was able to conquer the Muslim settlement in Manila. They were unsuccessful, though, in converting Muslim sultanates to Christianity, and in fact warred with Muslim Filipinos throughout their 300-year colonial rule from 1521-1898. Nor did they successfully conquer certain remote, mountainous areas, such as the Luzon highlands, where a diverse array of ethno-linguistic groups were able to avoid colonial rule.

Christianity today

The climate of Christianity in the country now is different from the fervent and universal Roman Catholicism of the Spanish period. During the American period (1900-1940), a lot of Protestant teachers and missionaries came to the Philippines. Nowadays, though Catholics are still the majority, there is a mixture of different Christian denominations, including Aglipayans, Jehova's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, United Methodists, El Shaddai, Born Again Christians and others. Apart from these, other religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and native beliefs of the remaining indigenous tribespeople continue to coexist in the country.

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