Religious Beliefs In The Philippines

Roman Catholicism prevails throughout most of the islands, though Islam has strong followings near Malaysia in the southwest of the country.

Religious Freedom

The separation of church and sate which is constitutionally established in the country gives its citizens the freedom of worship without discrimination. Religion is also incorporated into the school curriculum for pupils and students in various forms, including literature and religious activities. There is also no explicit ban on religious dress. For instance, the Hijab may be worn by Muslim girls, and the Rosary by Catholic Christian women.

Religious Tolerance

All religions are protected by the law, and no one religious belief is given priority over any other. Religious tolerance here entails that the rights of followers of any religion is respected. The focus in the Philippines is not on religious differences, but rather on commonalities. This is referred to as ecumenism, and takes place through religious dialogues and conferences. However, there have been reports regarding conflicts between Christians and Muslims, particularly in the workplace and other public places. Issues that arise usually pertain to religious dress and names.

Belief Systems in the Philippines

Roman Catholic Christianity

Roman Catholicism has the largest religious following in the Philippines. This religion was first introduced to the Filipino peoples through the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the early 1500's. Magellan, whose original destination was Spice Island, arrived on Cebu Island in Philippines due to a missed route. He then proceeded to make Roman Catholicism a state religion by first converting the Chief of Cebu, and several hundreds of his followers. Roman Catholics believe in a supreme deity or God, who exists in three forms. These are God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, commonly referred to as the Holy Trinity. Catholics believe that God sent his son, Jesus to the world through a virgin to die for the sins of the world. There are also three main sacraments of initiation kept by Roman Catholics, which include Water Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Conversion and acceptance of the religion precedes these three sacraments. In terms of influence, the Catholic Church historically has impacted decision making in such areas as marriage, reproduction and family life in general. However, that influence seems to be waning. For instance, divorce which was previously unacceptable due to the country's predominant Catholic beliefs, is now being accepted or tolerated by many. Family planning through the use of contraceptives or abortion which was also frowned upon by the Church seems to have been adopted by those who consider themselves "liberal" Catholics. As expected, these have not resonated well with the Catholic church.


Islam is the second largest religion in the Philippines after Roman Catholic Christianity. The religion existed in the region for around a century before the spread of Christianity. Islam first spread to Simunul Island in the Philippines through foreign trade with countries such as India. Specifically, it was the Islamic cleric-Karim ul' Makhdum who first introduced the religion to the area. Subsequently, he established the first mosque on the same Island, which is today, the oldest mosque in the country. Muslims, similar to Christians, believe in a single supreme God, or Allah in Arabic, but not in Jesus as the ultimate prophet and Messiah. They believe that Allah revealed his messages through the Prophet Mohammed, the founding figure of Islam. There are five principles which all Muslims generally adhere to. These principles include the Shahada or declaration of faith, Salat or prayer, Zakat or alms-giving/charity, Ramadan or ritual fast, and the Hajj or Pilgrimage. Islam has not had that much of an influence on the general society in the country, since it is not the dominant religion. However, one significant impact is in the area of Islamic dietary laws. Halal provisions which previously were non-existent or very scarce, are now gaining influence in the country. Influences are most felt in the Southern part of the country which is home to the majority of Muslims. Wearing of religious dress which historically was required and is still required, is however a bit flexible today. Muslims now incorporate Western styles into dressing, while still maintaining the standard which is modesty.

Evangelical Protestant Christians (affiliated with the PCEC)

Evangelical Protestantism was introduced into the Philippines by American missionaries after the Spanish-American War between the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Some Protestant groups which are affiliated with the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), however were established locally, without any foreign influence. This religion though similar to other forms of Christianity, arose as a counter-religion to Roman Catholicism. The main beliefs include spreading the message of Salvation through scriptural teaching, faith in the finished work of the Cross, which is the death and resurrection of Jesus, and, most importantly, a personal and willing conversion which is known as being "born-again." Influence of this sect on Filipino society has been predominantly in the area of education. Protestant Churches have established several schools at different levels, and incorporated most of these beliefs in the curriculum, even for students or pupils who are not part of the religion.

Iglesia ni Cristo (Philippine Church of Christ)

Unlike other religions in the Philippines which spread through external influences, the Philippine Church of Christ originated from within the country itself in the early 19th Century. The religion was founded by Felix Manalo Ysagun, who claimed that this sect was the true religion of Christ, and all other Christian groups were not. This Church believes in the power of scripture and a supreme God in a fashion similar to other Christian denominations, but rejects the doctrine of Trinitarianism which is common among other groups. The sect ascribes instead to the doctrine of Unitarianism, which holds that God is a singular entity, and not triple as described by adherents of Trinitarianism. The religion is rigid, especially to Protestants and Catholics, who are viewed by the Iglesias as apostates. Influence of the Philippine Church has largely been political. To encourage solidarity and unity in the religion, followers are required to vote only leaders endorsed by the Ministers or Church authorities. Hence, freedom of thought and opinion pertaining to political issues is absent in this religion. Any opposition from the State or any other group is usually met with large protest rallies. This rigidity has really made people, especially "outsiders" to the religion to question the supposed Church and State separation which is constitutional.


The time Buddhism first spread into the Philippines is unknown for the most part, although archaeological records point towards the 6th or 7th Century. Through sea trade with the Srivijaya Empire of India which was predominantly Buddhist, Vajrayana, a form of Buddhism became introduced in the Philippines. The adherents of this religion are primarily Chinese, Filipino-Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian or Middle-East groups residing in the country. Buddhists do not believe in a creator God in the same fashion Christians do. The main beliefs include suffering which is inherent in human existence, impermanence of everything in the world, and the absence of a permanent soul. Buddhism has had linguistic influences on Filipino culture as the origin of some words can be traced to Sanskrit and Pali which are Buddhist languages.

Indigenous Beliefs

Indigenous traditions predate the colonial religions of Islam and Christianity in the Philippines. The most predominant views are that of animism, which is the belief that even non-living entities such trees and plants have spirits. Indigenous religions are characterized by worship of various deities, as opposed to the monotheistic religions. With regards to influence, other religions, even the predominant Roman Catholic, have adopted animism in combination with their own beliefs. This blending is known as religious syncretism.

Other Christians

Other Christian groups in the country include Jehovah's witnesses, Latter Day Saints, Assemblies of God, Seventh-day Adventists, and numerous others. These groups were started either locally, or introduced by international Missionaries. Some beliefs are common to mainstream Christianity, but there are also a host of differences. For instance, Jehovah's witnesses also reject Trinitarianism, and the Latter day Saints believe in Salvation for the dead. Influences of these religions are mainly not on the wider society, but adherents of these religions. For instance, Jehovah's witnesses do not receive blood transfusions no matter how critical their health is.


Atheists do not follow any form of religion, and therefore disbelieve the existence of God or gods of any sort. They are constantly involved in humanitarian activities, although not following any religion, as well as scientific advocacy.

Other minor religions in the country include Hinduism, Judaism, and the Baha'i Faith.

Religious Beliefs In The Philippines

RankBelief SystemShare of Filipino Population
1Roman Catholic Christianity80.6%
3Evangelical Protestant Christians affiliated with the PCEC2.7%
4Iglesia ni Cristo (Philippine Church of Christ)2.5%

Buddhists, Indigenous Beliefs, Other Christians, Atheists, and Others8.6%

More in Society