Ever wonder why the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation?
The Arrival of Catholicism
The high population of Catholic Filipinos is the result of the 300-year reign of the Spaniards in the Philippines. The arrival of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on the island of Cebu in March 1521 marked not only the first circumnavigation of the globe, but also the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. One of the objectives of Spain in occupying the Philippines was to convert Filipinos into Christians and to colonize the country.
The lack of centralized power during the colonial period made it easier for a small number of Spaniards to be able to convert a large number of Filipinos to Catholicism. It is also believed that our forefathers associated Catholic baptism with a healing ritual that relies on the symbolism of the holy water.
Heart of Catholicism in Asia
Today, the Philippines is the only country in Asia where Christianity is the dominant religion. Approximately 92.5 percent of Filipinos are Christians, and 82.9 percent are Roman Catholic. The country also ranks fifth place worldwide for comprising four percent of the 2.18 billion Christian population globally.
In the year 2021, the Philippines will be celebrating its 500th anniversary of being a predominantly Catholic country, and by that time, an increase in the Catholic population would be inevitable. Just take a look at the papal visit of Pope Francis in January 2015.
Almost six million of Filipino Catholics and non-believers coming from different parts of the country attended the historical ceremony, which caught the eye of international news channels. It only shows that Catholicism has a huge impact inside and outside the country. The Vatican even considers the Philippines as the key to spreading Catholicism in Asia.
Praying and Staying Together
Catholic practices are highly observed and respected. Devotees in the Philippines stand out to strengthen their faith. This solid devotion is best seen during certain times of the year when millions of faithful followers gather together to pay homage to religious statues and images. One of the best examples for this is the annual celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, when millions of devotees participate in the procession, hoping for miracles or showing gratitude to the life-sized statue of Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno. Aside from this, we also recognize feasts of different saints, such as those of the Santo Niño, Our Lady of Manaoag, and Our Lady of Peñafrancia, among others. We also observe sacred celebrations or rituals not only of Catholics, but also of other religions every year.
The Philippines embodies devotion to Catholicism, recognized both locally and internationally. We may have our own differences and face different problems, but at the end of the day, our faith unites us as one.