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April 04, 2006



Yeah, it's embarrassing. And it's not simply Christian hegemony, it's *Catholic* hegemony. I've worked in a government institution and studied at state schools where masses during first Fridays of the month are held as a matter of routine. They also keep Catholic religious icons in public areas. This is in utter disregard for the secular character of public institutions and the absence of any respect for religious minorities, aetheists and agnostics.

I think that bigotry occurs more often than you think, torn. I encounter it all the time among my own family and friends: Muslims are lazy, corrupt, violent, and therefore cannot govern themselves. I always counter that Americans said the same things of Filipinos at the turn of the century.


you've described precisely what i find so offensive about Catholicism and the way it's practised in this country. I was born and raised as a catholic, even was an altar boy in our parish (Greenhills). yet as i got a little older and developed a mind (as you do), the intellectual wasteland and reactionary bastion that is the Catholic Church started to reveal itself in all its bigoted, Dark Ages glory.

The retarded, anti-human thinking displayed by that priest is not uncommon in the philippines even in this 21st century, as carla has pointed out.

I think the Church will always be a force for conservatism, fighting tooth and claw to prevent social change and equitable economic development, which the Church hierarchy believes is a threat to their power. they fear they will lose control of their 'flock' should the people become more educated (similiar to, say, citizens in the West).

Poverty is bad and should be alleviated-- as long as the poverty alleviation does not entail educating the general populace.

Yup, as the Philippines moves ever so slowly forward towards economic progress, you can safely bet that the Church will be there every step of the way attempting to hold us back (eg. birth control is a sin blah blah).

In the realm of close-mindedness, we have people in the Church here who can hold their own vs. any muslim extremist.

But in the end, one cannot prevent that Universal law: everything changes but change itself. So the Church will eventually have to acquiesce, or lose its influence. its already starting to happen. The Philippines still has remnants of the semi-feudal mindset that the Left keeps talking about, but once that goes, so goes the Church.


oh yes, and our penchant for starting a meeting with a prayer, automatically assuming that everyone around is catholic? REALLY does my head in.


I had to tour a group of Catholic lay ministers from East Timor once, to meet with local (Manila and Cebu based) priests and a visit to the Archbishop of Cebu's office. The meetings were to help the East Timorese with the development of proactive public health management services. The one line I won't forget from that tour was how one of the visitors noted how ultra conservative the Filipino church leaders were in comparison to their own. I'm pretty sure they felt happy not to be working within the Filipino church system.

Cogs (formerly Peter)

Please don't get me started, or I'll write enough on this subject to challenge the kilometres of diarrhroea that Max Soliven produces most mornings. Does that man have no sense of how ridiculous he is, with his self-indulgent ramblings, his picture regularly on the front page and his wife's business interests shamelessly promoted in his paper?

Anyhow, I can leave him for another day. I'll just limit my comments to saying that until the Catholic Church gets its boot off the neck of this terrific country, the Philippines will remain a struggling economy and a dysfunctional democracy.

The newspapers this morning tell us the population of the Philippines is likely to double to more than 141 million in the next 35 years. 141 million? How can that many people possibly be absorbed in a country where millions go to bed hungry every night, where desperate people kill to steal and sell a cellphone and where the best and the brightest are already forced to look overseas for work? Don't ask the Church. It couldn't care less, as long as they keep on procreating and showing up on Sundays.

The Catholic Church can survive in this country only if the masses remain downtrodden and ignorant. Being downtrodden is important, because without that there could be no workable promise of a better afterlife alongside the Lord. As for ignorance, well let's just say that I recently told a member of Couples For Christ that I believed Jesus was an exceptional man but that he was a mortal like me, that there was no God and that lots of the stuff in the Bible was folklore and written centuries after Jesus's death. Her reply: "So what about Hell? You don't believe in that either?"

That's the way to keep the suckers on their knees.

And then on the radio while driving to work the other morning (104.3FM), I heard the hosts (one of them a lawyer, but maybe no surprise there) seriously discussing the existence of angels and how much good they do, even though they had never been lucky enough to see one.

I could go on, à la Max, but I won't.

Madame Chiang

Not only here...there was a rash of letters to the SCMP last year from a 'Christian' gentleman in HKG who blamed the ills of HKG since '97 on the lack of British and therefore Christian rule in HKG...



Thanks to everyone for those strongly expressed views. Living in the Philippines, it is indeed hard not to hold an opinion about the church one way or the other.

However, can I just clarify that I was not really commenting on the rights or wrongs of the Catholic church vis à vis such matters as birth control, economic progress, etc. My real point was the assumption that everyone here is a Christian and the invisibility of the large Muslim minority. That point would hold true even if the Catholic church were a universal force for the good.

I mention that because I am interested in Catholics’ views and I fear that they may perceive this thread as just an attack on the church.


I agree with number 1 to 4, but no.5 Hello?....what do you mean by number 5. - Remember-they were here first?


Hi, Torn,

Funny how most of the commenters railing against the Christian hegemony here are Christians themselves and not Muslims.

But anyway, if you're looking for a Muslim opinion, I might point you out to two blog friends of mine. Wyzemoro (http://blog.wyzemoro.com/) and Morofilm (http://morofilm.blogspot.com). Wyze is a student, while Morofilm is a filmmaker. Why don't you contact them and ask them what they think?

I won't defend the bad behavior you've just highlighted. Bad behavior is bad behavior, after all, and well, it just shows ignorance.

On the other hand, I think we make certain assumptions based on the culture we're in, and that includes religion. Those assumptions take into account schedules and choice of activities, often without thinking.

My own experiences: In Malaysia and Indonesia, for example, there's usually an extended lunch break on Friday, because the men are at prayers in the Mosque. And every building in Malaysia that I've been to has a surau. In Pakistan, Sunday is a regular working day whereas Friday is a holiday.

I had a Muslim friend back in college, and we were quite close. If a teacher opted to start classes with a prayer (it was a Catholic university after all), well, he was fine with it. I suppose he thought if that was the way we expressed our faith, then so be it.

If they don't take offense, why should we?


In response to Bert: Muslim traders were plying the Philippine islands well before Magellan arrived. And the Spanish never managed to tame Mindanao.


Strange but I find that a lot of religions are VERY intolerant to others who don't share their beliefs.

Major Tom

I agree with you torn. As we are now in the 21st century, we must all at least by now realize that our religion, or each individual's religion was mostly a matter of culture and environment, like for example when one is born in Pakistan, I bet 99% he or she has to grow up a moslem. Just like those who were born in Italy, most probably they'd grow up as christians...I believe every religion teaches the good. It is merely bad people who are making (some) religion bad.


"Muslim traders were plying the Philippine islands well before Magellan arrived. And the Spanish never managed to tame Mindanao."

I also read (or heard somewhere) that if Magellan were only late by another 50 years, the entire Philippines would have been an Islamic country because the Spaniards would have found it difficult to conquer the entire archipelago.


Thanks again for those good comments. As for Muslim influence in the archipelago that later became known as the Philippines, the is a good timeline on the royal sultanate of Sulu here:


I think what Jackryan says is probably true. In fact the boundaries of the country (which obviously wouldn't have been called the Philippines) would have been different if the Spanish had arrived later and the archipelago might well have been part of an extended sultanate of Brunei (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunei).

Ah, if, if, if. What a fascinating game it is!

Dominique -- thanks for those good comments. I may well check out those blogger friends of yours, thanks for the info. I'm not sure I quite agree with the final sentence of your first comment though: "If they don't take offense, why should we?" I think there are certain objective principles that should apply regardless of the attitudes of the people who suffer from the existing state of affairs. For example, in the ante-bellum South, some slaves seemed quite happy (the "Uncle Toms"), yet that didn't make slavery right.

Major Tom -- I agree with what you wrote -- we are all accidents of geography and history. That's always been frayed's argument against religion -- how can it be that you can gain entrance to the kingdom of heaven if you are born in a Christian country like the Philippines, but if you happen to be born in, say, a Buddhist country like Thailand, well tough luck. Can it really come down to that? I guess you answered that in a way by stressing that all faiths share some core "good" values, but even so it is my understanding that, however good and devout you were in your life, if you weren't good and devout in a Christian way you ain't going to get in.


Hi, Torn. Most welcome, and thanks, too, for pointing out objective principles. However, in my defense, I would say that I was referring to the particular case at hand, i.e., prayers at secular events. The act itself is not immoral, and therefore should not be cause for offense.


Hi Dominique -- Just to spin out this interesting topic a bit further, it may not be immoral, but it is surely illogical. If a meeting opens with a prayer it is not a secular event. This goes back to what Carla said right at the beginning about the "utter disregard for the secular character of public institutions".

Now, it may not be realistic to expect the rigid distinction between Church and state that prevails in European democracies to apply here (in fact it obviously is not) but I personally think that is unfortunate. Once the Church is allowed into the secular realm, all kinds of problems arise, as happened in Europe in the Middle Ages. Of course I come from that tradition of separation, so it is not surprising that I should find it congenial. On the other hand, no doubt many Filipinos feel that a dose of religion in public life is no bad thing -- in fact the commendable performance of Brother Eddie Villanueva in the last election suggests that this is the case.


More than a decade ago I was affiliated with a Kulintang institute and we performed at various (mostly Filipino-American) events and venues. I felt that the experience enriched my life as a Filipino -- our gurus taught us about the ancient Filipino belief system and how that was reflected in the meanings and symbolism behind the music and instruments themselves. As someone born and raised in Manila, I knew none of this; upon learning of it I was even more proud of my Filipino heritage.

So I was horrified to discover there were many Filipinos in our audiences who were dismissive of kulintang music, going so far to say that it was "moro-moro," not "cultural" or worthy of merit, etc. etc. And to think this was the music of our ancient people, before the Spaniards and everyone else came and transformed us into their image and changed the rhythm of our lives.


You're talking here of the tyranny of the Catholic majority, which is but a natural phenomenon. There's no denying it, even from this, let's say, active Catholic. But at least, if it's any consolation to you, the "hegemony" is not state-sponsored, if you know what I mean. You seem to be taking up the cudgels for the poor Muslim brethren here, but have you ever posed to consider the awful, even abominable, double standard set by Muslim countries? I wonder. By the way, that's not an attack on Islam per se.


I have known people who were actually denied employment, even though they were perfectly qualified for the jobs, just because they were Muslims. Of course, the employers did not say that was the cause of the turn down, but their being Muslims was definitely discussed during the interview.

We really should stop stereotyping religions.


Re: 'support your local church', i wonder if a Muslim would just mentally translate it to 'support your local mosque'. in any case, it's definitely problematic for atheists and agnostics.

Anyway, if i understand your post correctly, i would take it as more of a secular vs. religious matter rather than a specifically christian/catholic vs. muslim issue.


Gigi -- I'm ashamed to say I've never heard of kulintang, I'll try to remedy that. I'd love to know more about pre-Hispanic Philippines, the fact that the Philippines had its own alphabet has always fascinated me. You should post some photos of those days on your blog!

Resty -- "But at least, if it's any consolation to you, the "hegemony" is not state-sponsored." I'm not so sure about that. Doesn't God find his way into most of GMA's speeches and wasn't it him who advised her to renege on her original promise not to run in 2004? (Not one of his better decisions, I must say.)

As for Islamic religious intolerance, I recognize that it is often far worse than Christian intolerance in the Philippines (as the recent death penalty for an apostate in Afghanistan showed). Of course I oppose it.

Redjuile -- I'm sure you are right that Muslims suffer discrimination when it comes to employment. In fact, given the lamentable history of human bigotry the world over it would be amazing if it did not. I've not had direct experience myself though.

cvj -- I didn't really have a particular message to put across, I was just reporting on what I have seen. I've been in the Philippines so long it is hard to remember what I my first impressions were, but I do remember that the prayers at office parties really knocked me for a loop. I also remember that my first office computer had a moving screen-saver that said "PRAISE HIM!". I thought that was pretty unusual too.


Allow me to add another dimension to the discussion based on personal experiences, growing up in Northern Mindanao close to Moslem populations. And add to that the fact that my family’s genealogy points to Moslem roots.

Cagayan de Oro has never been considered a Moslem area but because of its proximity to the Moslem Lanao areas and because the corresponding population movements have been quite fluid, it has have continuous interaction with Moslem communities.

Nothing in my experiences would suggest that issues relating to differences in religion were important enough to be addressed. The predominantly Catholic city treated Islam devotees no different than the other Protestant denominations. Not ideally good, but sufficiently acceptable for our milieu.

The areas where troublesome frictions between different “communities” could be found were in the differences between ways of life, or differences in cultural values. It may be difficult for the Christian Filipino to deny, but todate Moslems are still considered a different ethnic group, different from the rest, much like the lumads, or the indigenous people in the island. And this persists to this present day.

Thus, the issue is more assimilation or co-existence rather than respect for or tolerance to the differences in religions.


This topic reminded me of the theme of the 2005 Philippine Human Development Report, which, in the course of doing a paper for my boss, I remember touched on the invisibility of our Muslim brothers. It led me to the website of the Human Development Network http://www.hdn.org.ph/

A digital copy of the report is not yet available, which is quite sad, but I found this snippet which places latent anti-Muslim bias to cover between 33-39% of the entire population. That's 1 out of every 3. Pero I'm sure hindi kabilang si Tulfo at Soliven dun kasi ang bias nila, hindi latent :)

"Bias against Muslims real"

"Even more difficult to value, says the report, are the costs due to injuries and indignities suffered by victims of discrimination, or the loss of cultural traditions among minorities, or the rise of prejudice social and ethnic tensions in mainstream society which spillover across generations. Personal testimonies of anti-Muslim bias are not imagined or random. A specially commissioned opinion survey corroborated a significant degree of latent anti-Muslim bias across the country of about 33 percent to 39 percent of Filipinos."


"But at least, if it's any consolation to you, the "hegemony" is not state-sponsored..."

Oh, but it is. Who organizes the first Friday masses at government institutions? Why isn't there divorce? And why isn't there a cohesive, determined effort to curb population growth? It's because public officials are Catholic and they impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us.

I object equally to atrocities committed by oppressive Islamic governments--it's not a question of Muslims vs Catholics, as another comment has already pointed out. It's a question of religion invading public life.

Spain and Italy are Catholic, the latter even being the seat of the Catholic church. But you won't hear even the ridiculous Silvio Berlusconi saying that God annointed him as prime minister. Gay people can get married in Spain nowadays. Birth rates are falling in both countries. These are possible because in such countries, the principle is that government protects and promotes the rights and welfare of everyone, not just Catholics.


Uhrm, let's just say it's unofficial on paper, official in practice. ;)

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