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Religion & Catholicism In The Philippines

  • The Philippines is predominantly a Catholic Christian nation following the introduction of that religion by the Spaniards in the 16th century. The religious monuments of this religion dominate the urban landscape and provide a good historical record of the Spanish regime.
  • The belief systems of the religion also dominate many Filipinos beliefs and customs.
  • Accordingly they are an important aspect of what is in the Philippines to see and understand.
  • Ancestor worship and veneration of the dead in various forms is an important aspect of history and religious thinking.



Augustinians monument in front of Fort Santiago Intramuros


Understanding about Catholicism
  • Throughout the Philippines attention is made as to the relevance and placement of different types of religious Orders within the greater Roman Catholic Church and their role in the expansion of that religion and construction of churches and societies throughout the Philippines. For non Roman Catholics this needs to be explained.
  • Catholicism refers to the original Christian faith before it split with what is now the Christian Orthodox Church and later when it fractured in the Middle Ages with the separation of various Protestant Christian believers. This process of groups splitting away from the original Roman Christian faith has continued thereafter with the formation of such groups as Born Again Christians, Anglicans, etc.
  • The central issue with Roman Catholicism is, as with the two other Middle Eastern religions, Judaism and Islam is the concept of believing in an invisible one major God to the exclusion of all other ''gods'' and the subjugation of the believers thinking and social behavior to the policies of the Roman Catholic Church as decided by male human beings who say they can talk to this God through prayer and otherwise. Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe and behave this way.
  • This contrasts with the religious beliefs of East Asia, such as the Buddhists and the Animists. Buddhists are taught to believe there is no God, and that as a consequence individuals must think for themselves to understand the role of self delusion in human beings and the cause and effect of one's behavior in affecting one's future course of events and mental state. There is no concept of the master single God.
  • Animists have no concept of a master single God but use terms like ''gods'' to define what they see, such as the force of the water in rivers and the sea. The concept of many gods or spirits does not compare with the Christian concepts as the word ''god'' has many meanings. Other faith systems in Asia do not conflict with the Middle East ''God'' concepts because while we use similar words to define them, the word meanings are not appropriate. For example, ''ancestor worship '' is not a sin as the Christians would preach, rather the concept of ''worship'' merely refers to giving special respect and acknowledgment, not ''worship'' as the Christian and Muslim religions demand to their God.
  • So when looking at the Roman Catholic Churches and Church Museums in the Philippines one can see how in earlier days misunderstandings about the meaning of words and practices created conflict between the local population and the Spanish Roman Catholic Regime.



How we classify churches in the Philippines

The Catholic churches were constructed by 5 religious Orders within the Catholic Church. These were;

[1] The Augustinians. 
  • Who was Saint Augustin and who are the Augustinians ? Augustin, Saint Augustine, Augustinus or Saint Augustinos was born Augustine of Hippo (354 to 430 ), now part of modern Algeria, in what was then part of the Roman Empire. He became  an influential philosopher and writer within the Church of Rome to be later considered a father figure within the Church.
  • He is considered a Saint within the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Protestant Anglican Communion. He is the Patron of the Augustinian Movement. Of the surviving Latin works, he is one of the most prolific of the Latin authors with over 100 separate works presently in existence. He provided much of the written word on a wide range of subjects to assist the clergy in their thinking on issues.
  • The Austinians refers to several Catholic Religious Orders. What categorizes one Order from another is the solemn vows the members of each order take. The Augustinians followed the Rule of St Augustin which was a brief document providing guidelines for living in a religious community. The largest sub group were the Austin Friars now referred to as the Order of Saint Ausgustine. A subsequent reform group emerged in 1588 to be known as the Augustine Recollects. A further group emerged in 1592 to be known as the Discalced Augustinians.
[2] The Jesuits
  • ''Jesuits'' refers to the Society of Jesus'' and its members which is a religious Order in the Roman Catholic Church for males only and established on 15 August 1534 and officially recognized on 27 September 1540.
  • Jesuits are monks but in this Order they are exempted the cloisted rule of having to live in monasteries and are expected to ''live in the world''. They are also exempted from wearing traditional monk dress better enabling them to blend in the general community.
  • In 1545 the then Pope issued a proclamation that they could also preach, hear confession, say mass and ''dispense the sacraments without reference to a Bishop. Thus they were effectively free agents. Originally in 1534 the Jesuits were organized by one Francis Borja who was the organizer and financier in the formation of what was then intended to be the first dedicated military order of monks of the Roman Catholic Church. However it soon developed into a teaching institution and for which it is still recognized today.
  • The involvement in the Philippines is to be seen in the context of the Jesuit expansion into Asia, principally Japan and China.
[3] The Dominicans
  • The Dominicans are individuals and also the Order of Dominicans which is a Roman Catholic religious order founded by a Spanish priest, Saint Dominic de Guzman and formally recognized in 1216. The Order is known as the ''Order of Preachers'' and was formed to educate and preach with an intellectual tradition. Member s of the Order wear black and white as depicted in the images here. They were called ''the Black Friars''. ( The Carmelites wore white, and were termed ''the Whitefriars'' and the Augustinians wore brown ).
[4] The Franciscans
  • This can be complicated but essentially the term refers to people and religious orders that follow the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi. Within the Catholic Church this is the Order Of Friars Minor. Members of this Order live by a set of regulations known as ''The Rule Of Saint Francis''. There are three sub groups, the Observants or Franciscan Friars, the Convential Franciscans and the Capuchins.
  • The Franciscans are what is termed '' a Mendicant Order'' which means a religious order which does not own property individually or collectively, as was the case with Jesus, and one which both prays together and works together in the communities where they are.
  • Franciscan monks are characterized by their simple brown clothing.
  • Franciscan Churches are identified by the Franciscan emblem engraved in a stone plaque at the front of each Church.
[5] The Augustine Recollects & Seculars
  • The Order of Augustinian Recollects are a splinter offshoot of the Roman Catholic religious Order of Saint Augustine.
  • The Order was founded in 16th century Spain. It is a mendicant order for friars and nuns.
  • The ''Secular Augustinian Recollects ( as a body called ''Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity ' SARF' ) is an Order of the Order of Augustinian Recollects. They were formed in the later part of the 16th century in Spain.
The Augustinian Recollects in The Philippines.
  • The Augustinian Recollects first arrived in The Philippines in 1606 and were active until 1898. They were active in Bohol, Palawan, Calamianes, Negros and northern Mindanao. They laid the foundation for the Capiltal of Palawan, Puerto Princesa City.