Religious Facts



Roman Catholic 80.9%, Muslim 5%, Evangelical 2.8%, Iglesia ni Kristo 2.3%, Aglipayan 2%, other Christian 4.5%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.6%, none 0.1%




The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation on account of 300 years of Spanish rule. It is estimated that 81% of the population is Roman Catholic.

In the south on the large island of Mindanao, many are adherents of Islam. Filipino Muslims make up about five percent of the national population.

There is a Philippine Independent Church, known as Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Aglipayan Church (after its first head Gregorio Aglipay); it is affiliated with the Anglican Communion.

Another independent church was founded in 1914 by Felix Manalo; it is a unitarian religious organization known as Iglesia ni Cristo.

Missionaries of the Jehovah's Witnesses arrived in the Philippines during the American colonial rule (1898-1945). There are now 150,000 members in the country.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have 600,000 Mormon members in the Philippines.

Animism or folk religion encompassing indigenous spiritual traditions from pre-colonial times still prevail even among baptized members of formal churches. Superstitious beliefs are widespread.



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The constitution provides for freedom of religion and the government generally respects this right. The government at all levels strives to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. There is no state religion, and the constitution provides for the separation of church and state.

Catholicism in the Philippines is unique from the rest of the world. It adheres to the ancient worship rites and practices of the early, animistic Filipinos. Although ancient Filipinos were scattered into different and diverse clans and worshiped in diverse ways, generally they all worshiped a number of deities for every natural phenomenon. With the advent of Catholicism, these pagan gods were "converted" into biblical saints. Patron saints were assigned and prayed to for every need and area of life. The virgin Mary is given reverence and accorded with worship equally, if not above, the Lord Jesus.

Although still the most predominant religion, Catholicism today has been made vulnerable to religious scrutiny. Evangelical Christianity is becoming more popular due to both political and social developments, besides religious.

The leading local cult is the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), which boasts a membership of more than 1 million.

The government permits religious instruction in public schools with the written consent of parents, provided there is no cost to the government. Local public schools also allow church groups to teach moral values during school hours. Attendance is not mandatory and various churches rotate in sharing classroom space. Interested groups can also distribute free Bibles in public schools.

Historical Facts

The history of the Philippines can be divided into four distinct phases: the pre-Spanish period (before 1521), the Spanish period (1521-1898), the American period (1898-1946), and the years since independence (1946-present).

Pre-Spanish Period

The first people in the Philippines, the Negritos, are believed to have come to the islands 30,000 years ago from Borneo and Sumatra, making their way across then-existing land bridges. The Malays settled in scattered communities called baranggays, which were ruled by chieftains known as datus. Chinese merchants and traders arrived and settled in the ninth century. In the 14th century, Arabs arrived, introducing Islam in the south and extending some influence even into Luzon. The Malays, however, remained the dominant group until the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.

Spanish Period

Ferdinand Magellan claimed the Philippines for Spain in 1521, and for the next 377 years, the islands were under Spanish rule. This period was the era of conversion to Roman Catholicism. A Spanish colonial social system was developed, complete with a strong, centralized government and considerable clerical influence. The Filipinos were restive under the Spanish and this long period was marked by numerous uprisings. The most important of these began in 1896 under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo and continued until the Americans defeated the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, during the Spanish-American War. Aguinaldo declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.

American Period

Following Admiral Dewey's defeat of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, the United States occupied the Philippines. Spain ceded the islands to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898) that ended the war.

A war of resistance against U.S. rule, led by Revolutionary President Aguinaldo, broke out in 1899. Although Americans have historically used the term "the Philippine Insurrection," Filipinos and an increasing number of American historians refer to these hostilities as the Philippine-American War (1899-1902) and in 1999, the U.S. Library of Congress reclassified its references to use this term. In 1901, Aguinaldo was captured and swore allegiance to the United States and resistance gradually died out. The conflict ended with a Peace Proclamation on July 4, 1902.

U.S. administration of the Philippines was always declared to be temporary and aimed to develop institutions that would permit and encourage the eventual establishment of a free and democratic government. Therefore, U.S. officials concentrated on the creation of such practical supports for democratic government as public education and a sound legal system.

On July 4, 1946, the Philippine Islands became the independent Republic of the Philippines, in accordance with the terms of the Tydings-McDuffie Act. In 1962, the official Independence Day was changed from July 4 to June 12, commemorating the date independence from Spain was declared by General Aguinaldo in 1898.

Post-Independence Period

The early years of independence were dominated by U.S.-assisted postwar reconstruction. A communist-inspired Huk Rebellion (1945-53) complicated recovery efforts before its successful suppression under the leadership of President Ramon Magsaysay. The succeeding administrations of Presidents Carlos P. Garcia (1957-61) and Diosdado Macapagal (1961-65) sought to expand Philippine ties to its Asian neighbors, implement domestic reform programs and develop and diversify the economy.

Since 1986, when the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos was toppled, the Philippines has enjoyed relative political stability and steady economic growth. The current president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been in power since January of 2001. She succeeded Joseph Estrada, who was ousted following the breakdown of his impeachment trial on corruption charges and widespread demonstrations. Macapagal-Arroyo was elected to a six-year term in May 2004. The Philippine government faces threats from armed communists insurgencies and from Muslim separatists in the south.