Thursday, November 08, 2007

Filipino Conversion to Christianity

The conversion of the Philippines to Christianity has been hailed as one of the most stupendous achievements in the history of colonization. Edward Bourne, American historian, said," In the light, then of impartial history raised above race prejudice and religious prepossessions, after a comparison with the early years of the Spanish conquest in America, the conversion and civilization of the Philippines in the forty years following Legaspi's arrival must be pronounced an achievement without a parallel in history."

The efforts of the missionaries were not restricted to religious teaching, but were also directed to promote the social and economic advancement of the islands. They also cultivated the innate taste for music of the natives and taught the children Spanish. They introduced improvements in rice culture, brought Indian corn and cacao from America and developed the cultivation of indigo and coffee, and sugarcane.

Morga wrote: "The affairs of the faith have taken a good footing, as the people have a good disposition and genius, and they have seen the errors of their paganism and the truths of the Christian religion. They have now good churches and monasteries of wood, well constructed with shrines and brilliant ornaments, and all the things required for the service, crosses, candles, chalices of gold and silver, many brotherhoods and religious acts. They also give for the prayer and burials of their dead, and perform for the prayers and burials of their dead, and perform this with all punctuality and liberty."

One reason for the early conversion of the people to Christianity was the record of the early missionaries, who were active as teachers,advisers and protectors of the natives against the oppressions of the civil officials.

Again there were similarities between Christianity and pre-Spanish religion. In pre-Spanish times, the people practice monotheism, which is also belief of Christianity. But the Christian God is more personal, more merciful, and looks more after the welfare of the people than the pre-Spanish concept of God.

According to Pardo de Tavera, the Catholic saints were substituted for the anitos implying that there were no great differences between the two religions. But, of course, the differences is that the pre-Spanish Filipinos believed in good and bad anitos, and the bad anitos inspired fear rather than love. The Catholic saints, however, were people who because of their record and saintly lives have been canonized and are held as ideals in the Catholic world.

The extent of Christianity in the Philippines at the end of the Spanish regime can be found in the census of 1903 which gives the number of Christian inhabitants as 6,987,686.

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