Asia-Pacific Social Science Review 8:1 (2008), pp.


Colonial Apostles: A Discourse on Syncretism and the Early American Protestant Missions in the Philippines
T. Joseph T. Raymond Silliman University

The popular discourse pertaining to the colonial experience of the Philippines under the United States is commonly placed within the context of imperialism and its economic motives seen as a main catalyst for colonial aspirations. The colonial experience, however, is complex and can be explained beyond this conventional view. Colonialism serves as a channel for the accelerated mutation of colonized societies; such that, the colonizers as much as the colonized, are active participants in the dynamics of the colonial encounter. As civilizations interact in a world system, syncretism takes place; this is the blending of elements from different cultural traditions, the result being that a foreign tradition becomes meaningful in a land far from its origin. This acceptance of foreign belief practices is made possible due to the presence of associated indigenous values amongst Filipinos. These values of karangalan (dignity), katarungan (justice), and kalayaan (freedom) which emanate from a core value of kapwa (fellowmen) served as cultural bridges that accelerated the acceptance of the new faith. Thus, it is possible to re-image the colonizer and the colonized people as beneficiaries of a shared experience. This deviation from traditional paradigms used to explain the era, has permitted an alternative perspective on colonialism. This study focuses on the early events that transpired with the initiation and propagation of Protestantism as a belief system, by various religious missionary groups during the early stages of American colonial rule; how the Protestants in the United States viewed the colonial acquisition of the archipelago; and why they were welcomed by those who first came in contact with them. The intention is to understand the reasons for the coming of Protestantism to the Philippines; and to give a picture of the role and influence of early religious programs on the American colonial experience at its onset. This will then make possible a description of the Filipino response to Protestantism as a result of cross-cultural exchanges that have led to cultural enrichment. Keywords: Syncretism, Protestant missions, indigenous values, cross-cultural exchange

The approach used in this study is influenced and guided by this concept: that as belief systems interact in a world system, cross-cultural conversion takes place through the process of syncretism, which allows the blending of elements

from different cultural traditions, resulting in the foreign tradition becoming “intelligible, meaningful, and even attractive in a land far from its origin”. Furthermore, social conversion takes place in which people and societies adopt or adapt foreign

© 2008 De La Salle University-Manila, Philippines



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cultural traditions (Bentley, 1993, p.8). Conversion through syncretism is of three types: conversion through voluntary association; conversion introduced by political, social, or economic pressure; and conversion by assimilation. This study describes the Filipino reaction to Protestantism based on these three patterns of social conversion as seen from a historical perspective. Influences on societies were caused by political, economic, or commercial alliances with wellorganized foreigners when the former voluntarily associated with the latter. The agents responsible for such encounters were merchants who engaged in long-distance trade but who eventually settled permanently in the lands where they traded. These diasporic communities were also responsible for the introduction of their culture, tradition, religion, and other aspects of their way of life, which some of the indigenous peoples voluntarily accepted.. The conversions which thus resulted were hastened especially when the local native elite found the new/ foreign beliefs and practices not only appealing but empowering as well. Conversion induced by political, social and economic pressures caused occur when states choose, as a matter of policy, to support agreements, treaties, and even cultural alternatives at the expense of their own interests; and since compliance with such treaties, etc. becomes mandatory, the people have no choice but to accept them. Examples of these are the economic and political colonization by the Asians and later, by Europeans in the Americas and in Asia as well, in which the indigenous population could not do anything but accept the new rulers. In this situation, aside from merchants, soldiers and missionaries also serve as agents of political, social-economic and cultural exchange. In the case of conversion by assimilation (i.e. a process in which minority groups adapt to the practices, traditions, and standards of a ruling majority since the former enthusiastically believe in the political, social, and economic advantages to be gained from accepting foreign cultures. To further explain the syncretization process, it is significant to point out that the Protestant faith

was not just merely imposed upon the Filipinos, but it instead was able to find a cultural bridge into the hearts and minds of the Filipinos. This was possible through the strong emphasis of the early missionaries on self-determination in all aspects of the new faith. This found its counterpart in the Filipino core values of kapwa and its associated values of karangalan, katarungan, and kalayaan (Mendoza, 2006, p. 71). Significantly, these core values were at the heart of the nation during the transition periods from the old to the new colonial masters. This approach made possible the historical dynamics in the process of identity creation, whereby there is the “awareness that identity is not a fixed datum but undergoes shifts and changes in response to external demands in the environment, although still retaining a “core” (Ibid.). These concepts are to be utilized to analyze the nature, scope, and effects of early cultural relations between the Philippines and the United States; and to see to what extent these have brought about a continued cycle of historical contacts and exchanges between cultures that have led to a positive regional coherence of interests within the dominant shadow of US-Asia-Pacific foreign policy. These concepts are to be utilized to assess the realities brought about by the introduction of American Protestantism in the Philippines. Moreover, it is to see how cultural syncretism has changed, modified, and improved national identities within a historical framework. To understand the colonial aspirations of the United States it is important to realize the roots of her imperial philosophy that eventually became the cornerstone of the justification of her acts, all of which led to the creation of the American colonial empire, beginning with the acquisition of the Philippines in the late nineteenth century. There are three events in American history that are milestones in the formation of the American colonial framework: the imperial philosophy, popularly known as “manifest destiny”; “the White Man’s Burden”; and in the politico-diplomatic idiom – “Benevolent Assimilation”, which began with the American Revolution in 1776 and the independence of the United States by 1783. The




idea was thus initiated, that the Americans had some form of divine destiny, as proven in the victory of pitchfork-wielding settlers and farmers over a colonial power like Great Britain. A second event that strengthened this idea of a “divine destiny” and perhaps the most important, since it was the matchstick that lit the fire, was the victory of the liberal minded American North over the traditional South during the American Civil War which lasted from 1861 to 1865. This is considered as a landmark event in the formation of the colonial destiny of the American nation, since the mission of benevolence was accomplished by liberating the African migrants from the oppression of slavery, giving them the opportunity to live as “equals” in an American society. As a result, the notion of the “White Man” as the liberator and savior of the “dark skins” or non-whites became a popular interpretation of the Civil War.. The third event and a consequence of the first two, was the westward movement of the Americans as they slowly gained territories from European colonies in the continental United States, and further acquired more lands from the American Indians that further put into motion the concept and belief in the “civilizing mission” of the white American. It is clear that the Americans had long-term intentions for the Philippines as evidenced by the presence of Admiral George Dewey in Hong Kong before the battle of Manila Bay and even before the declaration of war on Spain by America (Agoncillo, 1990, p. 188); and the sending of three waves of reinforcements from June to July of 1898 headed by Gen. Thomas Anderson, Gen. Francis Greene, and Gen. Arthur MacArthur to Manila despite the already obvious defeat of Spain (Ibid., p. 194). This intention was later legitimized by the Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation of U.S. President William McKinley on December 21, 1898, just eleven days after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which opened the Philippines to American business, military installations, and religious programs, which, in general, represented the interests of the new colonial administration (Ibid., p. 214).

PROTESTANT SENTIMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES ABOUT THE ACQUISITION OF THE PHILIPPINES It is significant to point out that the American Protestant reaction to the acquisition of the Philippines was influenced by two general trends that characterized Protestantism in the United States at the turn of the century. First, there was the clamor for the importance of an institutional church that later took on a socialistic and humanistic outlook – “A historic Kingdom of God was sought on earth through cooperative projects of discipleship”. Second, there was the trend in late nineteenth century Protestantism towards selfassertiveness and strident emphasis on the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxons, as typified by the American branch (Meyer, 1986, pp.7-8). The existence of these two major trends will serve to explain the essence of the American Protestant sentiment toward their country now being a colonial power. As a result, the American understanding and imagery of race relations, as defined by their civilizational-social responsibility— became a catalyst for colonial religious motives. Moreover, “implicit of all these forces— nationalism, humanitarianism, imperialism—was a sense of mission (Clymer, 1986, p.11). The historic May 1 battle of Admiral George Dewey in Manila generated a great deal of interest in the Philippines, which became a hot, central issue of discussion and debate among many Americans. This despite the fact that few knew exactly where the islands lay; nor did those few have any real knowledge of the life and habits of the Filipinos, and of the natural environment of the Islands (Ibid.). The months of May to December of 1898 were described as “exciting” for most Protestant churches in the United States where there was a clear support for the expansionist venture. They had supported the war against Spain, then lobbied for the acquisition of the archipelago (Clymer, 1986, p. 3; Meyer, 1986, p. 14.). The Protestants’ fervor for the Philippines was also fueled by the fact that the archipelago was the very last country in proximity to peninsular



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Southeast Asia to open to “Protestant Bible colportage” or mission work. French Indo-China had been opened in 1891 by French missionaries; but not until 1903 would Christian and Alliance missionaries from the United States begin their work in Da Nang, Vietnam (Sitoy, 1992, p.1).1 However, it is important to note that Protestant Bibles had already been in circulation in the Philippines through the American Bible Society; such that in 1853, a total of 1,050 Spanish written Bibles and 100 testaments had already been sent to Manila (Ibid., p.6). Early influences, especially after 1834 when the Philippines opened her ports to international trade and the liberal movements in Spain, led to the distribution of more Bibles and other Protestant and liberal documents in the Philippines (Agoncillo, 1990, p.116; Sitoy, 1992, pp.6-7). By 1877, portions of the New Testament had been translated into three Filipino languages by a former Dominican priest and secretly passed around (Gowing, 1965, p.137).2 But despite these early efforts, it is clear why Protestantism had a difficult time entering the Philippines. The Spanish colonial administration had imposed the 1886 “special laws” which specifically stated that “those who publicly exercise acts of propaganda, preaching, or other ceremonies which are not those of the religion of the state [Catholicism] shall incur the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum grade (six months and one day to two years and four months)” (Ibid., p.2). This ban on everything non-Catholic further fueled the Protestant resolve to liberate the Cubans and Filipinos from what was perceived to be Spanish misrule. The Protestant Church realized that American control of the islands would pave the way for the Protestant message to be brought to a territory previously denied of it (Clymer, 1986, p.3). Spanish misrule was understood by many Americans at the turn of the twentieth century as the “highest exponent of the old world’s civilization, namely militarism…and its triumph would arrest the world’s progress and reversal of its blood-bought civilization” (Prentiss, 1900, p.15). Most Americans believed that the archipelago just withered away under Spanish domination (Meyer, 1986, p.11).

The words of Senator D.O. Rideout, when he addressed returning Utah Volunteers, gives us a clear indication of how the Americans viewed the early colonial campaign. He said, “you have written a new chapter in the history of Utah and interwoven with each beautiful line lessons of pure and lofty patriotism—you have added in shining course to the expanding walls of human liberty” (Ibid.). In Utah, the first presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an address to its communicants urging them take up arms for a worthy cause, “while from the pulpits of the various churches came similar words”; in all reality, the nation was swept with the fever of patriotism such that, Mormon, Gentile and Jew, Republican, Democrat and Populist; high and low, rich and poor—all were alike carried away by that sentiment (Ibid., p.30). The official Protestant call for support was truly heard and heeded by all those who inspired by the victory of Dewey in Manila. In New York in 1899, a retired Presbyterian businessman, Horace B. Silliman, LL.D. walked into the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions and offered $10,000.00 dollars to open a school for the Filipino people. The shocked secretary in the office (given the fact that that was a huge amount at that time) said they did not have a Filipino mission yet; but suggested that Silliman might want to open a school in another part of the world where they already had existing missions. But Silliman insisted on the Philippines and on establishing an industrial school for boys there (Carson, 1965, p.2).3 This eventually led to the the first permanent Protestant mission in the Philippines, to be set up in Iloilo (Salamanca, 1984, p.93),4 for which Dr. David S. Hibbard was tasked with finding the best location for the school. In 1901, this school became Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental. It is unfortunate, though, that Dr. Silliman never got to see the school that he founded because of his death in 1910. The Baptist reaction, at that time, as reflected in their news publications like the Watchman published in Boston, and the Examiner in New York, was focused on the four courses of action open to the American government regarding the




Philippine situation. These four options were: 1) the archipelago could be returned to Spain; or 2) held in joint protectorate with some other nation; or 3) given to the Filipinos for self-government; or 4) simply be retained (Meyer, 1986, p.14). There were a number of reasons for discouraging the establishment of Protestant missions. First, Catholicism, which claimed three centuries of dominance, would create difficulties for other religious denominations to convert Filipinos to their faith. Second, They had to deal with problems in the homeland of uplifting the lives of their own “ethnic minorities”, the African-Americans and the American Indians, for whose welfare the government had done very poorly. Third was the climate of the archipelago. Fourth was the distance of the new territory. Fifth was the existence of Muslims in the Philippines, plus even the possibility of an Islamic state within the country. Sixth was the possibility of overshadowing Baptist missions in India and Burma. And last was the uncertainty of the Filipino Revolution (Ibid., pp.16-17). But these pessimistic pronouncements were later overcome by the strong motives of expansionist-minded Protestants who believed that they needed to break up the Catholic monopoly in the region. For them, competition would mean less corruption, especially for the Catholic church, which was quite an interesting way to look at their motives. They were driven by their vision of putting the Bible in the hands of the people, coupled with a theological aspiration for the people themselves to interpret the scriptures once it was translated to the vernacular, as well as educational aim of increasing literacy among Filipinos (Ibid., pp. 1718). Nonetheless, the general Protestant sentiment in the Unites States still generated skepticism and reluctance due to the lack of knowledge about the Philippines; and as in any new enterprise, the unknown factor would always lead to uncertainty. But eventually, all these uncertainties were overcome by the strong belief in the White Man’s ability, destiny, and divine mandate to bring the “light” of the Protestant faith to those darkened shores. Furthermore, the motives behind the

Protestant missions eventually pushing through was the belief in their duty and mission as the divinely endowed new race to civilize new territories. America’s old European nemesis, Spain and Great Britain, needed to make way for the new dog in the pound. As Uncle Sam would probably say to them the Spaniards and the British: take a seat boys, it’s my turn now, enjoy the show. THE COMITY: THE DIVISION OF THE PHILIPPINES BY AMERICAN PROTESTANT MISSIONS The following statements, what supposedly uttered by Pres. William McKinley to Methodist ministers during the latter’s courtesy call in the White House, exemplifies the divine social character of colonization used to justifying their cause:
…I walked the floor of the White House night after night until midnight, and I am not ashamed to tell you gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night late it came to me this way — I don’t know how it was, but it came: (1) That we could not give them back to Spain –that would be cowardly and dishonorable; (2) that we could not turn them over to France or Germany – our commercial rivals in the Orient; (3) that we could not leave them to themselves – they were unfit for selfgovernment and would soon have anarchy…; and (4) there was nothing left for us to do but take them all and educate the Filipinos, and uplift and Christianize them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died. And then I went to bed, and went to sleep, and slept soundly….(Salamanca, 1984, p. 93) [emphasis is mine]

Thus, these statements reveal the American political as well as religious intentions for the Philippines even though there was no clear policy making Protestantism a state religion in the new colony, in contrast to what the previous colonial



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ruler, Spain, had done. America need to allow freedom of religion, which is provided for in her Constitution, in her colonies. However, the character and attitude of the colonial government supported in all aspects the promulgation of the faith as espoused by the sentiments of President McKinley above. The American government’s support of the Protestant missions and programs was more of an unwritten colonial policy that also worked as a catalyst to promulgate the American political, economic, and military agenda. It was through religion promoted through educational and social service programs later on, that directly and indirectly contributed to winning the hearts and minds of Filipinos to accept and promulgate such programs. The first American Protestant workers in the Philippines, from YMCA secretaries and chaplains who came with the volunteer regiments in 1898, were then followed by members of the British and Foreign Society (BFBS) and the American Bible Society (ABS) (Sitoy, 1992, p.12). In reality, the army was expected to go beyond their regular duties as they were assigned to “larger and larger posts for economical, educational, and disciplinary purposes, but their presence in the Islands is beneficial to the cause of order” (Taft, 1909, p. 15). With religious freedom installed under American rule, no less than seven Protestant missions from the United States opened in the Philippines in three years, from 1899 to 1902. The first ones, as previously mentioned, were the Presbyterians and the Methodists, followed by the Baptists, the Episcopalians, the United Brethren, the Disciples, and the Congregationalists. The Christian and Missionary Alliance also sent some volunteers starting in 1900, but not until 1905 would they formally have a Philippine mission. The last evangelical groups to begin work in the Philippines were the Seventh-Day Adventists in 1906 (Ibid., p.27). Because of the need to delineate areas of responsibility, the concept of comity was implemented by the various Protestant missions. “Comity,” meaning, “the division of territory and the assignment of spheres of occupation including

the delimitation of boundaries, on the one hand, and noninterference in one another’s affairs on the other,” also defined the cooperative practices of the missions (Clymer, 1986, p.32). Six weeks after the May 1898 victory of Dewey, with Presbyterians in the lead, several Protestant organizations met in the offices of the Presbyterian Board to recommend to their respective boards the appointment of two representatives to form a committee to look into the affairs of the comity with regard to the Philippines (Ibid., p. 33). This meeting took place on July 13, 1898 (Sitoy, 1992, p.11). The immediate concern raised by the Presbyterians over the significance of the comity was to avoid unnecessarily duplicating expenses and the possibility of rivalry (which actually existed to a certain degree). This was the first time that the various Protestant groups had come together to plan and pray so as to decide on “how men and money could be used to the very best advantage and to the avoidance of many evils of denominationalism,” as stated by Dr. Arthur J. Brown during the centennial of the Presbyterian Board in 1937 (Ibid., p.12). Thus, the division of the Philippines was geographically carved just as the previous Catholic missions had done. The map illustrates the result of the cooperative effort of the Protestant missions prior to their union under one umbrella organization in 1948, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) (Sitoy, 1997, p.1073).5 EARLY FILIPINO REACTIONS TO PROTESTANTISM As mentioned earlier, the introduction and acceptance of Protestantism by Filipinos can be explained and interpreted in terms of conversions resulting from syncretism, of which there are three types; 1) conversion through voluntary association; 2)conversion introduced by political, social, or economic pressure; and 3) conversion by assimilation. What further strengthened the syncretization of the new faith was the propagation of Filipino values that went hand in hand with the




Map showing the distribution of the Evangelical Churches prior to the Union of 1948

teachings and programs of the early Protestant missions. The entry of Protestant bibles into the Philippines in the mid 19th century was an offshoot of the clamor for reforms in the church in the form of secularization, and of national sentiments for political reforms in the form of democratic freedoms. As a result, even before the entry of American missionaries into the Philippines, a number of individuals became Evangelicals and several tiny underground congregations— supported at times by Freemasons—came into existence (Gowing, 1965, p. 137). This sentiment was felt by Aguinaldo himself, as reported by one Bible agent; it seems that Aguinaldo looked

favorably on the establishment of Protestant missions in the Philippines as later might be proven when he gave his permission for residents in Kawit to convert to Protestantism (Sitoy, 1992, p. 16). In fact, he later sent his two sons, Esteban and Miguel, to Silliman University which was run by the Presbyterians. To further this notion of Aguinaldo’s support for the entrance of Protestantism, when in an interview by Dr. James B. Rodgers, one of the first American missionaries to arrive in the country, he was asked what he thought of the Aglipayan movement, Aguinaldo answered, “It’s the first step.” When asked what the next step should be, he replied, “Protestantism of course!” (Ibid.; see Rodgers, 1940, p. 3).



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It is also important to understand that Aguinaldo was sympathetic to the Protestant movement as early as October of 1898, when he appointed Gregorio Aglipay, founder of the Philippine Independent Church, the Military Vicar General of the Revolutionary Government (Agoncillo, 1990, p. 233). The Philippine Independent Church was born out of the regular-secular conflicts among the Catholic clergy, conflicts actually caused by racial discrimination against Filipino priests who were denied administration of parishes and other duties by the Spanish friars. It is in this sense that by Filipino acceptance of Protestantism can be viewed as a reaction to Spanish religious colonial policies. Thus it was in this religious-political context that the value of kalayaan was embodied in and identified with the Protestant movement. In fact, the schism of the Independent Church of Aglipay in the religious aspect, contributed to the partial “Protestantizing [of] the Filipinos” through the Aglipayan doctrines, such as and especially the non-recognition of the Catholic Pope. This James A. LeRoy, a journalist and staff member in the Philippine Commission, observed in the early 1900’s (LeRoy, 1968, p.94). Therefore, indirectly, the growth of the Aglipayan movement meant also the growth of the Protestant faith; and the later decline of the Aglipayan organization primarily due to the nonacquisition of Catholic churches they occupied, led to the further blossoming of Protestant denominations due to the doctrinal inertia already suffered by the Independent Church. According to the census of 1918 there were a total of 124, 575 Protestant Filipinos, constituting 1.3% of the total population (Salamanca, 1984, p.94). Although some would consider this a less than impressive figure, considering that, by then, it had been roughly eighteen years since the introduction of the new faith, it is nonetheless noteworthy that it was possible for their numbers to grow despite the odds they faced, especially that of an already deeply entrenched Catholic faith as well as the Filipinos’ initial resistance to American rule. The Presbyterians reaction to the 1918 census was: “We should not rest content until we more and more

reduce the difference shown in these figures” (The Philippine Presbyterian, 1921, p. 1). Today, the phenomenal growth of mainstream as well as smaller denominations (the latter also later on grew in number) was a result of the initial efforts of the missionaries. From the very beginning, Evangelical Protestantism sought to minister to the needs of the Filipino people as part of their hearts and minds campaign. It was also part of the American colonial structure which correlated with the Filipino values of katarungan (social justice)and karangalan (dignity). Institutions founded under Protestant sponsorship played a significant role in putting forth education, health, agricultural development and other types of social services. The earliest institutions were the Presbyterian school of Silliman University (1901) in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental; Central Philippine University in Ilo-ilo (1905) founded by the Baptists; and The Union Theological Seminary in 1907 [now also conjoined in one campus with Philippine Christian University, located in Dasmarinas, Cavite].6 These institutions fostered social service programs as a mainstream objective of the American colonial philosophy. Education intertwined with the religious aspect was felt to be necessary, not only by the missionaries themselves, but also by those entrusted to set up the public school system in the Philippines. Thus was religion made a generic guiding element of the colonial framework, as embodied in the notion of “Christian Education.” C.E. Steele, a Thomasite, wrote in the “Log of the Thomas”:
The religious sentiment has not been neglected on the good ship Thomas. The fact that so many teachers are going to the islands of the sea carrying the best that a Christian civilization can give to a downtrodden people led many to think seriously of the trust committed to their care, and to give some time each day to the consideration of how to give the richest blessings to our new possessions. (US Embassy Public Affairs Section, Philippine-American Educational Foundation, 2001, p.31) [emphasis is mine]




Areas that came under these Protestant missions and generally in other places in the archipelago became peaceful with the help of the US Army, which, as mentioned earlier, went beyond their regular duties; for example, each company was ordered to assign one soldier to teach English in the schools (Taft, 1909, p. 27). The importance the establishment of an educational system is revealed in the words of W. H. Taft:
There is no real difference between the educated and ignorant Filipino that cannot be overcome by the education of one generation. They are a capable people in the sense that they can be given a normal intellectual development by the same kind of education that is given in our own common school system. (Ibid., p. 26)

The above statement also reflects the American assessment (one can say, even a condemnation) of the effects of the Spanish colonial educational administration. Further comments were also made regarding the need for the Filipinos to be educated on health practices, given poor sanitation in the country (Ibid., pp.50-51). In a letter to the Presbyterian missionary Rev. George W. Wright, Col. E.L. Munson of the Philippine Health Service requested the mission to open two hospitals in Samar and Tacloban due to “highly inadequate facilities for hospital relief in the islands (25 provinces now being without any hospital whatever).”7 Significantly, aside from being supported by the American colonial government and the various educational and social services the missions offered, the spread of Evangelical Protestantism was also “mediated by its individual members, many of whom have attained high office in government and distinction in professional and business life” (Gowing, p.141). The establishment of these professionally organized institutions of learning and the provision of social services for Filipinos, served as an important catalyst for the acceptance of the new religion. James W. Chapman of Silliman Institute lamented that the enthusiasm of the Filipinos for

the various programs grew ever more each year of their participation; and more were expected to accept Christ as their personal Savior, also lamented Lailyn Cox, another missionary at the Dumaguete station.8 Inevitably, Protestant doctrine became part of the educational institutions established by the missionaries, such that “The Bible is a textbook and is studied by every student in the school,” stated Dr. David S. Hibbard, the first and longest President in office (1901-1935) of Silliman University (Hibbard, 1922, p.3). These social service institutions cast the early Protestants in the image of individuals who cared for the people beyond religious instruction, such that their religious teaching duties went hand in hand with looking after the people’s welfare in terms of their education, health and overall well-being. Thus, the promotion of an individual’s personal dignity as well as of social justice were now available to the many, where it was the privilege of the few in the past. Another significant aspect to the acceptance and as a consequence, the spread of Evangelical Protestantism (that is also a result of American religious liberty), is the notion of self-support and self-liberation that correlates with the social aspect of kalayaan, inherent in which is the provision of personal dignity. The period of American colonization was also the period of the ecumenical movement whereby emphasis was placed on the emerging churches that encouraged active participation of indigenous clergy/ministers so as to promote self-leadership, self-support and selfpropagation. From the onset, an indigenous church was intended to be built, “led, supported, and propagated by Filipinos” (Deats, 1965, pp.163164). This philosophy was expressed by one of the missionary leaders of the time, Arthur Judson Brown, who said in 1903, “But within reasonable limits, we should give the Asiatic churches freedom to develop their own forms and adapt themselves to their peculiar environment” (Ibid.; quoted from Brown, 1903, p. 170). As a result of this emphasis on selfdetermination that began with the arrival of the American missions starting in 1898, the following developments took place: By 1914, the



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Presbyterian mission became an autonomous church under a Filipino moderator, in the person of Pastor Jose Moleta of the Ilo-Ilo Church (Rodgers, 1914). By 1920 the Evangelical Union had a predominant Filipino membership; three years later it elected its first Filipino president. By 1929, the Presbyterian, the Congregational and the United Brethren Churches united to form the United Evangelical Church led by a Filipino, Enrique Sobrepena (Ibid., p.163). In the Batangas, Bohol, Dumaguete, and Leyte stations, Filipino pastors proved their ability of self-propagation in the absence of American missionaries (The Philippine Presbyterian, 1921, p. 1). This was made possible by the ordination of more Filipino pastors in order to develop their sense of responsibility for the church.9 Thus, it is due to this factor that the spread of Protestantism was readily accepted in the early period since, as nationalism gripped the archipelago, the notion of self-determination became synonymous with the growing nationalist sentiment. It is important to note as well that the idea of self-determination was also be manifested in the American colonial government’s popular campaign , for the country to undergo a period of training toward self government. As Pres. Theodore Roosevelt explained to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Jan. 27, 1909, referring to early American achievements in the archipelago, the American colonial government “…would not have striven to teach them how to govern themselves or to have developed them, as we have developed them, primarily in their own interests” (Taft, 1909, p.5), if it (the American government) had not intended Filipino self-rule to begin with. The Presbyterians, the largest of the early groups, clearly advocated and echoed the government’s notion of eventual self-rule; as the editor of their publications, stated:
Our Filipino friends are forgetting that we come out here for a distinct purpose. We are here as the representatives of the churches of America to help establish an “independent” Filipino church which will teach those great principles found necessary in the establishment of any true republic. (The Philippine Presbyterian, 1921, p.13).

Thus, the evident congruence of the political and the religious campaign in the archipelago that, indirectly also appealed to the whims and caprices of the elite leaders of the revolutionary movement and later, to the American-sponsored Filipino government. As mentioned earlier, the spread of Aglipayanism also meant the spread of the Protestant doctrine since Protestant missionaries had been advisers in the development of the dogmas of the Independent Church (LeRoy, 1968, p.95). Aside from the non-recognition of Vatican authority, other syncretized Protestant beliefs and practices became appealing to the Aglipayans because these significantly complemented the national desire for self-determination. First, there was the dissemination of the Bible, now translated into the local dialects. Second, there was the practice of ensuring transparent policies from the political structure of the church from top to bottom in a congregational manner. Third, there was the freedom of interpretation of the written word and even the acceptance of modern science. And fourth, there was the practice of the election of Bishops (Ibid.). Viola R. Smith, a missionary in the Albay-Camarines station, reported that “they [the Filipinos] have begun by giving out and selling bible portions. This greatly delights them as it makes them feel like real missionaries on their own.”10 This practice could have never been possible under the friars in the past, and thus the Filipinos felt the importance of religious self-worth was felt. This notion of self-determination was also incorporated in the financial aspect and later on achieved by indigenous churches, that also gave a strong sense of karangalan and kalayaan for Filipinos – “Prominent among the tasks that have engaged the attention of the Albay-Camarines station during the past year has been the promotion of self-support among the churches recently graduated from the financial care of the station,” writes Stephen L. Smith a missionary. Although the numbers of Aglipayans were more numerous than Protestants, such that by 1918 there were 1,413,506 Aglipayans and 123,362 Protestants







MEMBERSHIP 4 Filipino Ministers 1,200 members 1,762 students in 30 Sunday Schools 2,900 members 2,800students enrolled in 54 Sunday schools 5 Filipino Ministers 25 Sunday schools 1,200 members66 (the report mentions an average of 100 converts a year) 72 members 12 Sunday Schools with 582 enrollees 3 Filipino ministers 844 members 21 Sunday Schools with 682 enrollees 2,300 members 24 Sunday Schools with 965 students 2 Filipino Ministers 1,044 members 14 Sunday schools with 515 students 3 Filipino Ministers 378 members 1 Filipino minister 1,145 members (The report mentions a couple of Sunday schools but with no specific number) 1 Filipino Minister 1,279 members 18 Sunday schools with 992 students 3 Filipino Ministers 320 members 10 Sunday schools (no data mentioned on number of students)






Over 3 (no specific data in the report)







Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes Tayabas





Leyte Bohol

1903 1909

18 22


Used to be part of the Manila station and became independent in 1917 1911






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(Salamanca, 1984, p.94), this was only the start of a non-Catholic schism that was to spread and grow into many branches in the archipelago in the years to come. These practices and beliefs were suppressed during Spanish friar rule, thus its appealing character to a nation in search of a vehicle to express the freedoms of self-determination. This notion of self-determination, also incorporated in financial matters, and later on achieved by indigenous churches, further gave Filipinos a strong sense of karangalan. “Prominent among the tasks that have engaged the attention of the Albay-Camarines station during the past year has been the promotion of self-support among the churches recently graduated from the financial care of the station,” wrote Stephen L. Smith (Ibid.),11 a missionary. Although the number of Aglipayans was greater than that of the Protestants, such that by 1918 there were 1,413,506 Aglipayans and 123,362 Protestants (Salamanca, 1984, p.94), this was only the start of a non-Catholic schism that was to spread and grow into many branches in the archipelago in the years to come. These practices and beliefs were suppressed during Spanish friar rule, thus they appealed to a nation in search of a vehicle to express the freedoms of self-determination. In this way, the Protestant philosophy of selfdetermination syncretized with the Filipino spiritual psyche since the former directly promoted the inherent core value of kapwa and its associated values of kalayaan, katarungan, and karangalan, all of which promoted the welfare of one’s fellowman. The significance of kalayaan is manifested in the social and political nature of early contacts between the Protestant missionaries and the Filipinos. This materialized in the following ways: the freedom of interpreting the Bible; and later on in preaching the faith to others; and the practice of the Filipinos themselves managing churches affairs, from financial to other organizational matters. In the political sense, the strong nationalist spirit which was made manifest by the Philippine revolution was further echoed by the Protestant push for self-rule, since all their programs were intended to train the Filipinos to

run the churches, and eventually the country themselves. These practices directly complemented the values of katarungan and karangalan since, for the first time, Filipinos had control and supervision of a faith they could claim as their own. These values were strongly felt, as social service institutions were organized and later run by Filipinos themselves. Contrary to the popular notion that Protestantism competed with Aglipayanism, the latter, in face, opened the floodgates for the former; and coupled with the dissatisfaction with Catholicism at the time, Aglipayanism ensured a steady flow of Protestantism into the Philippine religious stream. The table provides logistical data in 1921 that would show the development of the early Protestant institutions in the country, specifically Presbyterian, the largest group of the period.12 CONCLUSION From the colonial perspective, it is clear that Protestantism was part and parcel of the whole schema to implant in the archipelago an American stronghold in all aspects. This was possible through the new rulers’ objective of civilizing the local population, as the Americans considered themselves the “bearers of light.” This “light” would shine through education and religion, which would promulgate political and social reforms through established American institutions. There is a clearcut, but unofficial, cooperative link between government and the Protestant missions (unlike colonial Spain, which had officially legitimized the rule of the Catholic Church in the archipelago). This cooperation between government and the missions eventually led to the steady acceptance of Protestantism as a syncretized faith in the islands. The first factor that led to this acceptance of Protestantism was the support of the new colonial and the local elite, which led to their voluntary association with the new faith. The former, represented by the leadership of the American politico-economic hierarchy, was driven by an agenda of establishing a strong foothold in the




islands; and the latter, encouraged by the revolutionary leaders who were driven by their dissatisfaction with the former Spanish colonial power and the Catholic Church ( as one source of that dissatisfaction). Because of this support from both the American colonial government and the local elite, in the Filipinos were indirectly created political, social, and to a certain extent, economic motivations to welcome the Protestant faith. Political and social motivations, since Protestant missionaries served also as the colonial government’s representatives , as administrators of educational institutions, health facilities, and other social services. These facilities catered to the needs of the people where they were located; the people, in turn, seeing and the benefits they gained from these facilities, became attracted to the new faith. Also related to political pressure as motivation, in a positive sense, is the fact that nationalism expressed through the Aglipayan Church led to the acceptance of a Protestant doctrine which appealed greatly to Filipinos — self-determination. Thus, the new faith, through its doctrines, appeared as one that was in congruence with the popular sentiment of national freedom as well as being in sync with the popular American declaration of benevolent assimilation and the American intent of preparing the colony for self rule. In the areas where these missions were located and established, economic order was restored; and because of this, regular investments both local and American, were then allowed to continue. Therefore, conversion to the faith was possible also through assimilation since, there were social and economic advantages to it for those who integrated themselves into the new missions, through their various educational and social service institutions. Most significant was the reciprocal effect of self-determination and the reinforcement of the Filipino core value of kapwa, and its associated values of karangalan, katarungan, and kalayaan. All of which can be seen in different aspects of the introduction of the new faith. The emphasis on the campaign for Filipinos to run and manage their own churches gave them a strong sense of dignity and responsibility, as well as

freedom (e.g. preaching themselves; managing finances of church organizations). The various educational and social services also provided a sense of social justice, which was not widespread under the Spanish colonial rule. Today, mainstream Protestant churches, those of the first seven Protestant denominations to arrive in the archipelago, are still present. But they have been overshadowed to a significant extent by breakaway denominations that have mushroomed all over the country. To a certain extent, this phenomenon has also led to reforms in the Catholic Church which has realized the times call for such reforms. Finally, one can conclude that cross-cultural contacts and exchanges are part of a process that takes place when civilizations interact through colonization brought about by war and trade. It is an inevitable occurrence that cultural traditions and practices are modified and sometimes even lost, depending on the degree of adaptation to newly introduced ideas and traditions. If one accepts this as a “normal” trend in human history, then perhaps one can understand these events as transactional occurrences in order to view these experiences from a non-violent and non-confrontational perspective. Thus, we come to understand these contacts with other belief systems as a cultural experience of enriching exchanges, and not just as a consequence of conflict.
In the work, Dr. Sitoy states that “the Philippines is the very last country in Asia to open” but I replaced “Asia” with Peninsular Southeast Asia since Dr. Sitoy’s discussion elaborates on other Christian religions in Asia, such as Nestorian Christianity and Catholic Christianity in different parts in Asia. But to be clear when Protestant Christianity arrived nearest to the Philippines, actually begins in French Indo-China which includes Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, thus, my usage of the term Peninsular Southeast Asia of which the three countries are a part of in a geographic collective context. 2 The name of the Dominican friar is not mentioned, perhaps to protect that individual, but this is only speculation on my part.



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3 Dr. Carson is the fifth President of Silliman University serving from 1938-1954 being the last American President to serve the University, ushering in the transition to Filipino administration with the appointment of the first Filipino President, Dr. Leopoldo T. Ruiz. 4 Dr. Salamanca provides the information about the first permanent protestant mission. I provide the idea that it was due to the donation of Dr. Horace B. Silliman that led to the establishment of this permanent Presbyterian Mission. 5 IEMELIF stands for Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas an indigenous congregation of the Methodists (see Gowing, 1965, p.139). 6 Majority of the primary sources are found in the archives of this school. Sad to note that these archives, upon my visits, are already in bad shape. Steps should be taken to preserve them. 7 Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Presbyterian Mission in the Philippine Islands, Manila, May 12-16, 1924, 63. 8 Annual Reports Philippine Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. 1932-1933. 9 Station and Personal Reports of the Philippine Presbyterian Mission 1914, Cebu, October 3-10, 1914, 8. 10 Annual Reports 1928-1929 Philippine Mission, Presbyterian Church in the USA. 11 Although this was written in 1928, it is evident that from the very beginning it was the intention to make mission churches to be self-governing in all aspects and this testimony is a result of that effort. 12 The data in the table is based upon the reports of the following missionaries: James B. Rodgers (Manila), H. Roy Berger (Ilo-ilo), Geo Dunlap (Dumaguete), Charles R. Hamilton (Laguna and Bohol), Roy H. Brown (Albay), Charles E. Rath (Cebu and Leyte), P. Fred Jensen (Tayabas and Batangas), Roy H. Brown (Camarines), The Philippine Presbyterian, Department of Evangelism, The Fruitage of the Years, Vol. XIII, No.1 (January, 1921), 8-22.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Primary Sources A. Mission Minutes and Reports [These documents are found in the Philippine Christian University-Union Theological Seminary Library Archives in Damarinas, Cavite]. Annual Reports Philippine Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. 19321933, CebuOctober 18-21, 1933

Carson, Arthur L.(n.d.). A study of evangelical church workers in the Philippines. Far Eastern Office Division of Foreign Missions, National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., New York, [no publishing date since the first pages are missing, but the document is considered a primary source since Dr. Carson is one of the early Presbyterian missionaries in the Philippines] Ferrer, Cornelio M. (1957). [Transcribed from the original Manuscript]. Private journal of Harry Farmer, beginnings of Methodism in the Agno Valleyarea, the Philippines 19041907. Minutes and Reports for 1917-1918 of the Philippine Mission, Dumaguete, Philippine Islands, October 5-12, 1918. Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Presbyterian Mission in the Philippines, Cebu, April 3rd-8th 1922; Ilo-ilo April 16th 20th, 1923; Dumaguete, Oct. 6th-14th 1923; Manila, May 12th-16th 1924, Oct. 6th-14th, IloIlo, Mar. 16th-20th 1925; Dumaguete Oct. 17thOct. 24th 1925; Manila Apr. 1st-5th, 1926. Mission Meeting Reports for 1923-1924 of the Philippine Mission, Manila, Philippine Islands October 6-14, 1924. Philippine Presbyterian Mission. Board Letters. April 1, 1922 to March 31, 1927, No. 390464. Philippine Presbyterian Mission. Board Letters. Jan. 1929 to 1931, No. 488-527. Philippine Presbyterian Mission. Board Letters. Jan. 1932-Dec. 1934, No. 528-551. Philippine Presbyterian Mission. The Philippine Presbyterian 1922-1925, Manila, Philippine Islands. The Philippine Presbyterian (1921). Editorial Notes, Post War Conference Objectives and Mission Attainments Vol. XIII, No.1, January, 1921. Presbyterian Church in the USA. Annual Reports 1928-1929 Philippine Mission. Rodgers, James B. (1940). Forty years in the Philippines: A custody of the Philippine Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the




U.S.A. 1899-1939. New York: Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in United States of America. Station and Personal Reports of the Philippine Presbyterian Mission, 1914. B. American Government Reports Minnesotans in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. April 21, 1898 – July 4, 1902. Philippine Islands. Military Governor, 1898-1900. Report of Major-General E.S. Otis on military operations and affairs of the military government in the Philippine Islands. Philippine Islands. Military Governor, 1900-1901. Annual Report of Major General Arthur Macarthur. Philippine Islands. Military Government. President Schurman on the Philippine Situation. Prentiss, A., Ed. (1900). The history of the Utah Volunteers in the Spanish-American War and in the Philippine Islands. Salt Lake City: W.F. Ford Publisher. Taft, William, H.. (1909). Special Report of WM. H. Taft Secretary of War to the President on the Philippines. Manila: Bureau of Printing. United States. Committee on the Philippines of the United States Senate. (1902). Affairs of the Philippine Islands. Washington: Government Printing Office. C. Personal Accounts Le Roy, James A.. (1968). Philippine life in town and country (1905). (Reprinted as Book One of The Philippines Circa 1900). Manila: Regal Printing Co. US Embassy Public Affairs Section, PhilippineAmerican Educational Foundation. (2001). To Islands far away: the story of the Thomasites and their journey to the Philippines. , Manila Public Affairs Section, US Embassy. [The Log of the Thomas is reprinted in this source].

Secondary Sources A. Books Agoncillo, Teodoro A. (1990). History of the Filipino People (8th ed.). Quezon City: Garotech Publishing. Bentley, Jerry H. (1993). Old World encounters: cross-cultural contacts and exchanges in premodern Times. New York: Oxford University Press. Carson, Arthur L. (1965). Silliman University 1901-1959. Taiwan: United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. Clymer, K e n t o n , J . ( 1 9 8 6 ) . P ro t e s t a n t missionaries in the Philippines (18981916). Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Deats, Richard L. (1965). Nationalism and the Churches in the Philippines. Silliman Journal, XII (2), 152-167. Golden Jubilee Executive Committee. (1959). Aklat Pang-alala sa ika 50 Anibesario Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas 1909-1959. Gowing, Peter G. (1965). Christianity in the Philippines: yesterday and today. Silliman Journal, XII, (2), 109-151. Guillermo, Merlyn L. and Verora, L.P. (1982). Protestant Churches in the Philippines (Vol. I). National Council of Churches in the Philippines. Valenzuela,Metro Manila: Agape Printing Press. Mendoza, Lily. (2006). Between homeland and the diaspora. Manila: University of Santo Tomas Press. Meyer, Milton, W. (1986). The course of early Baptist Missions in the Philippines: The first decade: 1900-1910. In the Bulletin of the American Historical Collection. Manila: American Association of the Philippines. Osias, Camilo. (n.d.). Evangelical Christianity in the Philippines. [Unfortunately, this book found at the Union Theological Seminary is in a deteriorated state and pages are missing, including publishing information].



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Roberts, Walter N. (1936). The Filipino Church: The story of the development of an indigenous evangelical church in the Philippine Islands as revealed in the work of “The Church of the United Brethren in Christ.” Dayton, Ohio: The Foreign Mission Society and The Women’s Missionary Association United Brethren in Christ. Salamanca, Bonifacio, S. (1984). The Filipino reaction to American rule 1901-1913. Quezon City: New Day Publishers. Sitoy, Valentino, T. Jr. (1992). Several springs, one stream: the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (Vol. 1). Quezon City: United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Sitoy, Valentino, T. Jr. (1997). Several springs, one Stream: United Church of Christ in the Philippines (Vol. II) The Formative Decade (1948-1958). Quezon City: United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Von Oeyen, Robert R. (1970). Philippine Evangelical Protestant and Independent Catholic Churches: an historical bibliography of Church records, publications and source material located in the Greater Manila Area. Asian Center, University of the Philippines.

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