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Filipino Folk Christianity

The Spanish missionaries arrived filled with a zealous desire to save the animist souls of the indigenous people.The missionaries built impressive churches and preached the virtuous path to salvation. But the indigenous people found that medieval Castilian philosophy did not fit into their worldview, so they went on practicing animism behind the backs of the priests. The Spaniards may have imposed Christianity, but it would be inaccurate to say that the indigenous people fully accepted the foreign religion. Historians seems to see not the Christianizing of a people, but of their animistic practices. Christianity in the Philippines is really a unique folk variety, incorporating animistic beliefs. One can easily recognize this in the practice of Christianity in the Philippines. For example, Filipinos have a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary in many different capacities: as a shield against foreign invasion, as a protector during travel, and even as a fertility goddess. Filipino children often call her Mama Mary. There are also cults devoted solely to the Child Jesus. Worshipers bathe images of the Santo Nio, or Holy Child. They clothe the statues in rich brocade, treating the Child Jesus as a princely guest in their homes. More than 50 icons of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus in the Philippines are said to be miraculous. Another example of folk Christianity in the Philippines is the veneration of saints for prayers answered: for a good harvest, for rain, for the right spouse, for children. Early Filipino converts may have seen features of their own rituals in Catholic sacraments. They may, for example, have associated the sacrament of baptism with their own healing rituals, which also used the symbolism of water. The Spanish friar may have simply replaced the indigenous priestess as spiritual mediator. While the missionaries tried to completely destroy indigenous symbols and practices such as slavery and polygamy, some of the European Catholic practices they introduced blended with indigenous ritual practices. For example, they acted out biblical stories to teach indigenous people about Christianity. Filipinos today act out the passion of Christ during Holy Week. A faithful people, Filipino look for religion for strength in times of trouble and attribute their accomplishments to divine guidance. What is important to them is that someone or something more powerful than themselves turns the wheel of live and may be counted on for help.