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INFLUENCES OF CHRISTIANITY TO FILIPINO CULTURE

Khristine Delgado 29 September 2004 Final Paper on Asian Civ
Khristine Delgado
29 September 2004
Final Paper on Asian Civ

INTRODUCTION

Christianity mainly the Roman Catholic Church began its way in the Philippine during the Spanish colonization. Philippines then was under the form of animistic belief.

Christianity has been popular in the Western part of the world where it was a
Christianity has been popular in the Western part of the world where it was a
driving force in the field of arts and science. Monarchs are patron of the church and
it has inspired many artists to do great works that until now fascinates audiences.
Philippines to be described before the Christian faith is like what I have said
before – in animistic religion. They pay tribute to nature and believe that they are
governed by anitos. Their supreme being was called Bathala, and the anitos are
spirits of nature and their ancestors. According to their faith, they can still intercede
with human activities and demand homage for their blessings to the Filipinos. The
homage are in the form of dances, chants, and harvest offerings. These are
supervised by a village’s Babaylan. The Babaylan is considered to be the priest,
doctor and political adviser all-rolled into one. They are commonly women who aged
in wisdom.
This is the Filipino faith before the Spaniards came. Their god is Bathala and
the anitos are their guardians. Their life was governed by the knowledge that there
are stronger forces around them that they have to acknowledge. In this light we can
see the innate religiousness of Filipinos and their devotion to their faith.
In the appearance of the Spaniards in the Philippines they used the religion of
Christianity to connect with the Filipinos. Later on they started the communication
and trading. Slowly the religion crept into the life of Filipinos and somehow
integrated itself in the existing beliefs that the native folks has. In the process it has
created a constructive merge of Christianity and the folk religion. This merge is
called syncretism.

Until today, the effect of this fusion can still be felt among the dominating religion of Christianity. It has influenced the way Filipinos mange their lifestyle and molded their tradition. It already became a major influence in the cultural formation of the Philippine society. The influence of the Christian religion manifested through the arts and social functions of the society. Among the art forms that the influences can be seen are in

architecture, music, literature, and other visual arts. The religion became an instrument for the creativity of Filipinos to flow in. Its influence can also be felt or recognized in the social aspect of the Philippines: the traditions, beliefs, and commonly through the values of each Filipino is formed through the light of this religion. Although Christianity seemed to be dominant in the Filipino culture, it cannot be denied that other religions are profound in this society. Among these are Islam, Protestant, and other religions sects that sprung out of Filipinos innate search for spiritual enlightenment. In this paper, we will focus on Christianity on the Filipino culture, and will try to view things according to this subject.

paper, we will focus on Christianity on the Filipino culture, and will try to view things

INFLUENCES

Literature and Drama

Christianity’s influence on literature is profound on the earlier writings of Filipinos. Other than the historical and political sway, this religion has already been a driving force in this field. Through the Catholic Church, Christianity inspired writings greatly developed aside from the usual biblical forms of literature, spiritual journals, counseling books and therapeutic articles and books that include religious influence of Christianity on the authors. For spiritual journals, we have the likes of Kerygma – a Catholic based magazine that created a mass of reading followers ranging in different ages. We have articles from Bo Sanchez, different Jesuit priests, Fr. Bacani, etc. Counseling books or some call it as self-help books are mostly rooted in spiritual light. Authors like Ernest Tan offers their own experiences and shares with the readers their personal insight regarding the events. The same goes with therapy books that offer readings about knowing oneself based on spirituality. These books often say that by finding God one can find his/her individuality. In here we can see that Filipinos have this in-born longing for spiritual devotion that is manifested in the Christian faith. The Catholic Church does not only supplement this by their mere documents but also by relating with the Filipinos’ experiences. The religiousness of Filipinos made its way into the big screen and even on Broadway presentations. They are mostly accompanied by historical impact on the country, showing how devoted Filipinos are. One of the recent plays that were held in the University of the Philippines was entitled, “Tanikalang Guinto”. It is a historically based play delivering the Filipinos as religious people under colonization. It has shown audience how Filipinos were bounded in chains by colonizers using religion. There must be no other Filipino film that is more popular than the film, Himala. It features Nora Aunora as the lead female artist that is said to be capable of performing miracles. It was depicted in this film the passionate devotedness of Filipinos. It reflects the syncretism that is profound in the Filipino culture. The belief

the passionate devotedness of Filipinos. It reflects the syncretism that is profound in the Filipino culture.

in miracles and the healing powers of saints is a combination of the society’s conviction of magic and the supernatural fused with the Christian faith. Another recent movie is of Laurice Guillen, Tanging Yaman which is more of the family’s interaction and how God played a part in their lives. It showed how the Filipino family is influenced and governed by spirituality, especially Christianity. Other movies of religious influence are more of angel-inspired and family- oriented ideas. Other influences can be found on TV Programs like Hirayamanawari that caters to children’s value formation. It can be observed that programs and films are sensitive to the teachings of the church and are somewhat restricted to what is socially acceptable.

Architecture and Sculpture
Architecture and Sculpture

Most of the architectural formation that is influenced by Christianity is profound on the Churches. Next structure would be on schools that are originally founded by Catholic missionaries that preached Catholicism. Later on, the influences entered on Filipino housed that mixed up with the knowledge of Chinese feng shui. The early houses that were built during the Spanish eras include a place for worship called the altar. It is also common that these houses contain statues of different saints, images of Mary, Christ, and other religious items. The churches if not emphasize colors; they contain different ornamentations that accentuates the religiousness of the place. These churches contain sculptures of saint images made of ivory or wood, accented with jewelries and hand-made costumes. The walls are decorated with murals or mosaics that are prominent in Christian churches. These murals depict some stories in the bible, most commonly the 12 Stations of the Cross. Sculptures of angels and saints can also be seen as ornaments and functional designs. Examples of these are angels as water basin and saints as pillars in chapels. Like in the early western civilization, Christianity has influenced the creation of biblical inspired sculptures. An example of this would be the EDSA Shrine, wherein the historical People Power Movement in 1986 took place. Christian religion has aroused creativity among Filipino artist to develop art benefiting the religion. Beautiful churches were built and houses that give praise to the creator by showing gratitude to simplicity of living.

Music and Dance

Filipinos are known for its love for music. Even before Christianity came, the native of Filipinos already pay tribute to their god by performing chants and dances were lessened.

Songs and chants like the pasyon every lent can be traced back to the early Christian years of the Philippines. Prayers were sung and the life-story of Christ was transformed into music. Elder women and men mostly partake in this kind of ritual that can be observed in ritual place in the country. Liturgical choirs of different schools are moved to create albums, reviving classical church songs composed and based on biblical entries. They even hold song composition contests with religious themes to educate the younger generations on the experience of praising God through music. Popular artist like Gary Valenciano and Jaime Rivera are also known for their spiritual attachment with their music. Gary Valenciano’s “Natutulog ba ang Diyos?

is a classic moving composition that seeks God during troubled times. While Jaime Rivera’s “Heal
is a classic moving composition that seeks God during troubled times. While Jaime
Rivera’s “Heal Our Land” is a song that calls for unity and had been a theme in the
past people movement against the government. Other music that are inspired by
the religion comes from movie soundtracks, for example in “Tanging Yaman”. Its
album is a compilation of revival and original compositions that can spiritually move
a listener. Other religiously inspired music comes from underdog musicians and
revivals of Filipino artists that pay tribute to their God through their music.
The influence of the religion in dance is not really profound here in
Philippines. But it can still be mirrored in the country’s fiesta and in the Obando.
The Obando is a festive where couples dance in honor of St. Clara in Bulacan.
It is like an offering and prayer of couples who want to be blessed with a child.
Another form of dance can be found in festival called the ati-atihan. The ati-
atihan is a colorful festival where people in costume or painted bodies dance in the
middle of the streets to pay tribute to the community’s patron saint. Most of the
time, biblical figures are depicted and are included in the dance.

Society

The impact the Christian religion in Filipinos can be viewed not only in the field of arts but also in their everyday routines.

Cultures have molded traditions that Filipinos most often than not they follow. And we have said have said that culture is influenced by religion, in this case Christianity. The Catholic Church had been a very visible pillar of Christianity in the Philippines, becoming an institution itself. It has delved not only into tradition but also in values formation, the system of society including the law and education, and the acculturation of Filipinos. Traditions in the Philippines vary with different occasions and situations. It cannot be denied that aside from Christianity these traditions are also influenced by folk religion that Filipinos had practiced earlier. These traditions bring in some superstitions and rituals that passed on through generations. To begin with tradition we have different traditions from wedding and burial ceremony. Most of these traditions are common in rural areas or regional traditions. This is because of the spiritual attachment local villagers having with Christianity. Wedding traditions incorporate different ceremonies even before the wedding itself. We have what we call the pag-aalay in the patron of the place and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It would also entail them to ask for wedding sponsors, the more the merrier. Some wedding traditions also include the sabog wherein some couples are pinned with money offerings or given gifts as a help for them to start on their own. After the wedding, custom was to shower the newlyweds with bigas. But due to economic crises it was later reduced to confetti or flower petals. In burial ceremonies, it is a custom to have 3-4 days of wake before burying the dead. It will be followed by a 40 days of prayers called the padasal; for it is believed that the spirit of the dead still wanders in this earth during that time. The prayers will serve as guide to the spirit on his journey to the afterlife. And the commemoration of his death will be met with prayers every year. Along with this is the tradition of All Saint’s Day at the cemetery. Customs based on religion also made Filipinos dress their dead white and have this superstition that the size of the casket should just fit the dead or else someone close to him will die as well. Aside from the wedding and burial traditions, we also have the house blessing that is assumed to eliminate evil spirits that resides in the place. House owners light candles and guide the priest that blesses each corner and room in the house. Often some owners throw coins after the tawid in some regions where the family formally moves into their new house early in the morning.

throw coins after the tawid in some regions where the family formally moves into their new

Other than the institutions, the main institution of the society which is the family is mainly influenced by religion. The ways they rear their children and conduct themselves are mostly inflicted spiritually. Some parents use God to discipline their children, and use religion early as a tool to educate their child. The Christian religion teaches that the family places God in the center of their lives. And this faith had become the foundation of most Filipino family, especially during times of crisis and dire hope. The Christian religion through the Catholic Church started educating the Filipinos. Formal education started in the American occupation when Thomasites and other missionaries built schools and started teaching. Churches were venues of education before in the time of the Spaniards, teaching only that God is a god of law and used religion as an instrument to manipulate Filipinos; knowing how religiously rooted they are. Christian living had been an integral part in the education of Filipinos especially in Catholic schools was they are deeply stressed-out. Even if there is a law that states the separation of the state and the church, it cannot be denied that the Catholic Church has an impact on Philippine Government. Even the laws that are made don’t escape the watchful eyes of the church. They serve as monitors and advisers to the government. They are sometimes considered as heart if the institutions. The Catholic Church has also found its way into the media institution, establishing its own radio and TV station reaching-out to more Filipinos. An example is the Radio Veritas that went into heights during the late Marcos period to the Aquino administration. Aside from these, Filipinos have this tradition of celebrating town fiestas. It displays the people praise for the Lord’s blessing on them, especially during harvest time. It’s a time where families prepare banquets and townsfolk meet and have fun together.

especially during harvest time. It’s a time where families prepare banquets and townsfolk meet and have

CONCLUSION

Filipinos are deeply religious in nature. Even before Christianity came into the picture, they already acknowledge the presence of someone greater than them. They already know how to show their gratitude and pay their respect to them. It has affected their way of living and has shaped their attitude towards other people. The Spaniards came and introduced Catholicism to the Philippines. As a result, the religion fused with the existing animistic belief that is later called folk religion. This fusion of Christianity and folk religion was called syncretism. The Filipinos have their Christian faith but at the same time they still can’t ignore their belief in the forces of the supernatural. The influences of Christianity can be seen through Filipinos arts and social interaction. In the field of literature, many had been written inspired by spiritual journeys and devotion to the faith. Films and other visual arts were created based on biblical figures and topics that have been argued in and out of the religion. The architectural designs show the impact the religion has on its designers. It has integrated the faith with art and created pieces of masterpiece that endured and will endure the passing of time. Including the sculptures and shrines built in honor of the faith. Music also connotes the way Filipinos pay gratitude to the Lord and could have been the most profound aspect of art that is influenced. Dances are visible through the colorful festivals that Filipinos value the most. Bringing all these together, we can see that the Catholic Church has been a very influential factor in the society. It does not only concern the important aspect of the society, the family, but also became a watcher of the government. It has created a voice of itself and continued to be a driving force in the society. The religion has become an instrument for Filipinos enlightenment, captivation, unity and hope. Although the Christian faith of Filipinos is not truly that pure, it cannot be denied that Filipinos are faithful to their religion. But the thought lies on are they really capable of acknowledging the responsibility that accompanied this faith. Looking at their influences, the Filipinos had come a long way since the Spaniards came and it would seem that all they do is follow norms and never tried to break free from the bindings of the past. They use religion as a reason from staying behind and prevent themselves from taking risks for changes.

of the past. They use religion as a reason from staying behind and prevent themselves from

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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http://www.koleksyon.com/filipinoheritage
http://www.koleksyon.com/filipinoheritage