Religion in the Philippines

Religion. A subject I’ve heard people say to reject talking about around the dinner table. Well, this site ain’t a dinner table, but a guide to Filipino culture. I guess I’ll just lay down some facts and also give my own experiences.

According to the CIA World Factbook, these are the religions and their percentage within the country:

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%

Although it isn’t the top religion in the Philippines, Islam was the first foreign religion introduced. It had been picked up by Filipinos in the southern islands by Arab traders.

Catholicism didn’t come till the Spanish came. Their ruling increased the percentage of followers.

Protestantism landed in the Philippines from American missionaries, mainly while the Philippines was under American ruling.

Original Filipino religion consisted of belief in animism. Even today, some of it is still practiced.

Today, atheism and forms of skepticism exist among the Filipino community. One notable group is the Filipino Free Thinkers.

Iglesia ni Cristo (Tagalog: Church of Christ) is a notable church that started in the Philippines. It was started by Felix Manalo. Many groups consider it a sect, since it has beliefs that do not match up to traditional Protestant doctrine (ex: Rejection of the Trinity).

Now for me, I am a Christian. I regularly attend a Pentecostal church. I myself am not Pentecostal, and I didn’t know it was one till I attended a few times. I guess when everyone fell down on the floor crying, with me standing there feeling awkward, I got the idea. But I like the people and pastor, so I kinda just have stuck to it. Sometimes I have attended Mass (Catholic service) in the evenings. It is different from the basic Protestant way of playing contemporary worship music, praying, being preached to, and all that. There is a lot of sit, stand, kneel, and listen involved.

I’ve noticed there seems to be more Protestant churches scattered about that Catholic churches, here in the area where I live. Maybe it is because usually the Catholic Church structures are large, while the Protestant ones are small. As for Mosques, there are a few scattered around, but not within the inner-city areas. Usually, I see many Muslims hanging around one area where I know there is a Mosque. Oh yeah, according to a map I have, there are two Buddhist temples here as well. So far I have only seen one. It has a beautiful structure (I always loved Asian architecture). There is one church around here that I noticed looks like a Buddhist temple, but it is just a church built in that architectural style. Interesting, eh?

Anyways, for those following my Davao City Living site’s blog, I have 3 new thigns you might wanna check out :)
My blog post on me enrolling into college here (part 1)
Photos I took near the Davao City Seawall… a beautiful place.
A new blogger on my site. A Filipina living in Australia.

Post Author: Jawz (37 Posts)

Hi, I am Jonathan Watson. I'm 19 years old, living in Davao, Philippines, and currently attending the Ateneo de Davao University as a 1st year student. I am originally from the state of South Carolina, in the USA. I'm interested in many things such as cultures, theology, and writing. I am also known by nicknames such as "Jawz" (my online nickname 'cause of my initials; J.onathan A. W.atson + random Z). Others just call me "Jon".

How to Move to the Philippines Manual


  1. dans says

    hi jawz,

    hahaha I think I am part of that 0.1% I am a free thinker and my belief is leaning towards being an atheist.

    but hey, I do respect people who have their own religious belief, it’s just that it really annoys me when someone will come to me and start “preaching” me.

    • Jawz says

      Ah yeah, I believe that 1% will rise in a few years. In America, non-belief [I think] rose 18% more. Britain has almost abandoned its ways too, from what I’ve read and seemed to see. I guess it won’t be long for the Philippines as well.

      • dans says

        internet played a big role.. people are more open to all kinds of beliefs..

        but i’ve been an atheist for a long time now.. most of the time, it is really hard to tell people what an atheist is.. the first thing that will come to their mind is “atheist = anti-christ or satanism””

      • Paul Thompson says

        I’ve heard that atheist’s have a Dial-a-Prayer, when they call, no one answers, and they feel reassured.

        • Marcel says

          A Jew, A Catholic, and an atheist are rowing in Lake Erie when their boat springs a huge leak. The Jew looks skyward, and says “Oh, Adonai, if you save me, I promise I’ll sail to Israel and spend the rest of my days trying to reclaim the land you gave us.” The Catholic looks skyward, and says, “Oh, Jesus, if you save me, I promise I’ll fly to the Vatican and spend the rest of my days singing your praises.” The atheist says, “Oh, guys, if you pass me that one life preserver, I promise I’ll swim to Cleveland.” “And how will you spend the rest of your days?” the Jew and the Catholic ask. “Well,” says the atheist, “I’m not sure, but I can tell you one thing: I’ll never go rowing with other atheists.”

              • hudson says

                Yes of course,
                during a time of war (I think the saying goes back to WWI) the soldiers would
                dig a whole to protect themselves from enemy bombs and small arms fire. They were
                in constant danger of being killed. There was alot of praying going on.

          • ian says

            Marcel= it just means that when people are in a situation of imminent death even the most hardened atheists/agnostics tend to find God !! lol Sort of covering all bases just in case !

            • Marcel says

              I see…
              I did some research, and I like this comment:

              Anti-Semantic – ORIGINAL All-Black Avatar Feb 17th, 2009 This is a hillariously stupid pro-theism statement, because it actually goes to show the atheist’s point:

              If in fact there are no atheists in foxholes (which is obviously an unfounded statement) – it would show that rapid religious conversion takes place, not through objective consideration, but through extreme stress and fear.

              “I converted BECAUSE I thought I was going to die, not because I read the Bible and decided that this makes sense”

              Read more: Why do people say that there are no atheists in FoxHoles? |

              In my case I would most likely say in time of imminent death ” Oh s..t, I am f….d now!”
              An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.

              • hudson says

                There once was a famous mathmatican named Pascal. His logical conclusion was that to hedge your bet. In other words, He deemed it better to believe in God just in case God really does exist.

              • Marcel says

                Hudson, that would be hypocritical, I actually see many strongly religious people around me that claim to adhere to “word of god” but their actions are exact opposite. I will never accept the fact that only religious people have good morals (see recent pedophile priests cases). You have your parents to teach you morals and you learn whats good or bad from your own experience, for example; you as a small child hurt your playmate or break his toy, he will start to cry, it will become clear to you as a day that you did the bad thing…
                Hypothetically if there was the God, I think who would be far above intelligence wise to demand that I pray every day to him to get my “salvation”. Even though I am not sure about this because according to Old and New Testament writings God requires to sacrifice the people you love, make your daughter prostitute, kill all people that oppose him etc. According to those texts the God is a very mean and heartless being…

              • Marcel says

                BTW, why I was talking about morals? Because those above mentioned hypocrites who go to church at every opportunity and keep on showing word of god down to your throat feel so self richess, above everybody else because they have their faith and anyone else, different religion or atheist is a low life deserving no respect.
                No, I would not sacrifice my integrity to play both sides, like a double agent who goes with side that is more profitable…

  2. PaulK says

    Hi Jawz – Quite a courageous selection of topics, and an extremely fine article that handles the topic with the respect it deserves. It is extremely refreshing to read an article on organized religion that doesn’t waste a majority of words in bashing religion, particular denominations, or even the agnostic or the atheist.

    • Jawz says

      Yeah. I don’t like to stir up trouble on certain topics. I debate sometimes with people, only if they bring it up, but I never use a militant style of talking against any belief. As for this, I just wanted to present and article without bias, but, give my own lil’ experience as well without any biting. Haha.

  3. says

    Its interesting to me that the Catholic church is supposed to be 80-percent plus of the population, but in Mindanao when I travel around, all I see are churches OTHER than Catholic — from Baptist to Jehovah Witness. Its not until you hit the bigger cities (i.e. Davao) and you see the Cathedrals.

    • Jawz says

      Here in Davao City, I have seen many Protestant churches scattered around. There are the cathedrals, but I think they’re outnumbered. I am thinking Protestantism is on the rise, but, I believe skepticism will follow with it on one side.

  4. says

    JAWZ – did you see the Long Hua temple then? It is open to the public… and there is a school behind it.

    There is another temple calle dthe Taoist temple -services every Sunday and every 1’st and 15’th day of the Chinese Clendar.

    There is another chinese temple somewhere near the fruit stand I have never been to.

    There is another one in front of Gaisano mall but its hideen and you have to know where you are going to be able to find it.

    Have you considered attending this Christian Church OMG I don’t know the name but if you know Ken and Chris Sandberg – maybe you can ask them what Church they attend. Ken is Canadian and Chris is Filipina and both are pastors they run the orphanage near me.

    • Jawz says

      I think it was the Taoist temple probably.

      I’ve been trying to find that one around G-Mall. It’s hidden good.

      I might check it out to visit :) I’ve been invited to several churches. Only attended 3 so far.

  5. Mike says

    You handle a controversial subject very well! When the time is approaching for you to return to The USA, you, first, should take a trip around Asia & check out some of the old churches, assembly halls, etc. . My wife & I were married in a very cool 400 year old church in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and I have visited interesting old churches in South Korea & Hong Kong, as well. When working in Taiwan, I used to visit Taoist temples just to soak up the serenity for half an hour. When in Davao, I was the deputy warden for The Canadian Embassy & the warden was Father Burrill, of Holy Cross. We had some interesting discourses when he discovered that I was born & raised Catholic, yet, described myself as – more spiritual than religious – agnostic, at best! To each, his/her own. I would imagine that it would have been pretty cool to have lived with the early animists.

  6. Roberto says

    Jawz: All a question of FAITH: ” Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. “

  7. ian says

    Roberto – maybe I am a bit dense today but I dont understand your comment.
    First you say it is all a question of faith- but I dont know what the question was? Maybe i didnt read back far enuf tho.
    Then you say that “Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things ” . In other words, if someone who has no knowledge, ie someone who is ignorant of a matter, says something then what they say is belief without evidence??? Belief without evidence of what exactly ?? I havent had anything to drink yet today, maybe i should have a couple then read your post again !!! lol
    I do try to understand what people post

        • ian says

          I didnt mean to be abusive, I actually was trying to figure out what he said meant . I see nothing wrong with what he said either- i just dont understand it. And rather than attack him I admitted that it was me that was dense. And rather than being heavy my remarks about having a drink first were meant to add levity to my situation of lack of understanding. But no problem Bob – I will abide by your request.

  8. Paul Thompson says

    Riddle me this; If Adam and Eve were the first, Then, I just want to know who Cain and Able married?

    • Jawz says

      Able was killed, so he never married. Cain, on the other hand, had to have married his sister (or maybe even other relative if possible). Gen. 5:4 speaks of other brothers and sisters, but I don’t know if it is spoken as after Cain got his wife, or before. Acts 17:26 does speaks of everyone from one bloodline though, meaning she had to be from Adam, therefore she is Cain’s sister. This would mean that the birth of the sister isn’t mentioned explicitly.

      Incest laws weren’t applied till later (Moses time), so it wouldn’t have been in play. You can see they weren’t in play at the time, because stories such as Abraham’s wife being his half sister. Why the laws were applied has to deal with something happening with the genes. For that, I dunno what happened, or why it changed. I do know anthropology points to one place of origin, and, genetics seem to create some sort of abstract outline of all humans from one (but not a clear founded fact, yet).

  9. Mike says

    I have to admit that the more the wind picks up when sailing, the closer I feel to “God”, & on those occasions that things get nasty, I even start talking to him/her/it! Or, at least, using his/her/it’s name a lot.

    Roberto, at first I didn’t understand your statement, either, but after a lot of thought I find it to be most profound!

    • ian says

      Faith: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. A quote written by Ambrose Bierce , an American jouralist 1842- 1914
      Now I begin to see why I didnt understand the quote- Bierce wasnt. talking about religion at all- he was talking about Faith. Two very different things in my opinion.
      Bob- I really dont have any intention of offending anyone . I just like to understand things.

      Select Ambrose Bierce Quotations:
      War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.
      Ambrose Bierce

      Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
      Ambrose Bierce

  10. hudson says

    Hi Jon, You may be on to something when You said may groups consider Iglesia ni Cristo a sect. As it turns out, Felix was a disgruntled Catholic before he started his new religon. And of course, to start a new religion in a country where its 80% catholic, you need to discredit the Catholic church. Its like the anti-catholic religon. I guess several years ago there was a member of Iglesia ni Cristo that shot a bullet into the Black Nazarene.

    The Catholic church in the Philippines is almost like a different religon than what I have experienced here in the states. I don’t see anybody putting themselves on a cross during holy week here. I have never heard of the feast of the Black Nazarene until I was visiting there and got trapped in traffic.

    BTW Is there Episcopal (catholic lite) church there in Davao?

    • Jawz says

      Yeah, I believe some Protestant churches go too far at times with being anti-Catholic, then rather trying to dismantle and observe doctrines before major critique.

      Oh, the cross thing I think is condemned by the Catholic Church, and is more of a sect-like thing. As for Black Nazarene… I never heard of that. I know the Church here does seem to have public influence; prayer in malls that are spoken from the speakers, many Catholic schools, and a lot of Catholic symbolism everywhere.

  11. cris says


    The Black Nazarene is in Quiapo Church, Manila. celebrated every 9th of January. Don’t even try going there if you dont want to get stucked in traffic. People from different places visited the church and the Nazarene to pray. The thing is, Quiapo, Manila is heavily populated with filipino Muslim, mostly from Mindanao. Lots of stores are owned and managed by them.

  12. AlexB says

    Hi Jawz,

    Islam wasn’t the first religion introduced in the country. The Hindus and Buddhists (from Java) came before the Muslim Arabs, pretty much established by 9th century (I believe). The monarchs of Butuan and that area were Buddhists. The Muslims and Christians were late comers. Going back to the topic of religion, based on comments of devout Catholics when I was there, I think the CBCP is losing its grip on the people. People belong to a particular Christian religion but whether they actually believe and do as their Church says is a different matter.


  13. joe (I'm a no good S.O.B ) says

    Jawz, I enjoy the fact that you are not politically correct. Maybe with age you will be uptight like Bob. I did not understand what Roberto meant either, and asking him to explain is not a hateful or mean act. Ian did not say “Evil whore-monger, thou shalt be thrown in a lake of fire and brimstone.” Yet, Bob was offended, and wanted Ian to lighten up? Silly: absolutely silly.

    Anyway, without God there would be no atheists. There is no way of knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt whether God exists or not. In order to prove that there is no God, one would have to be in every place known in existence and everyplace not known or perceived by the 5 senses which we rely on as humans; and this would have to take place simultaneously past, present, and future). Another problem has to deal with the fact that this entity, if real, can exist without being encapsulated in space and time, which we know came into existence at some time in the past.

    Basically, there is no way to prove there is a God. The only thing man is left with is evidence: historical, scientific, textual, etc… And with the evidence we have, it is up to us to choose. Even the God of the Bible does not force a person to believe. The one thing that is a very real possibility is that very soon each one of us is going to know whether God exists or not, since there is no cure for death as I speak (I know, lighten up :-) ).

  14. Tom Martin says

    It is true that the Philippine Catholic is not the Catholic Church I experienced in the United States and I am a Catholic priest. I removed all the statues from my last church in the States and build a special room at the front of the Church for them. We had an influx of Mexican Catholics and I opposed the superstition they placed on religious relics and statues. The teachings of the Catholic Church opposes these superstitions, but local preist allow them. I think too often the Catholic Church has tried to accomodate local customs to the detrement of the Catholic faith. In my travels I have found that it is not necessarily true that the Catholic Church is the same all around the world.

    There is an Anglican Church down from the Catholic Church on Torres Street. I had lunch with one of the Catholic priest and he told me that it was there and at one time the Philippine Catholic Bishops recognized the ordination of their priest, but have stopped doing so because each parish has begun to be more independent of one another and the teaching are not always the same from parish to parish. I have looked for a sign on the Church, but have not seen one. It is on the right side of the street opposite side of Bo’s Coffee Shop.

    There is good and bad in all religion and denominations. You cannot have an organization run by humans that would not have good and bad in it. I as of yet have not found the perfect religion or perfect denomination. That is why I have for years advised people that were in my parish not to turn their brains off when they enter the church. I feel this would be good for Protestants, Catholic, Jews and all other religously minded people.

    As for me I do not believe in God because of parental upbringing, Catholic teachings, the Pope or the Bishops. I believe in God from personal experiences. If ones relationship with God is not personal then they do not have a true relationship with God. I am not effected by how others live their lives. I am only effected by how I live my life and as long as I am satified with my relationship with God and my life what others do, say and think are of little concern to me. Too many people have relationships with charismatic leaders and denominations and think they have a relationship with God. When the relationship with humans in the church goes bad they tend to blame God.

    If when I die there is not a God then I have lost nothing because the time I spent on earth was made better by my believing in a God. That is not a crutch that is a fact!

  15. says

    Many religions may have organized behaviors, clergy, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, holy places, and scriptures.

  16. says

    Many religions may have organized behaviors, clergy, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, holy places, and scriptures.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith, belief system or sometimes set of duties.

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