| Search | Wednesday 30 September 2020
Home LPM 2011 Features II Ang Bayan Kong Pilipinas Sex, the Catholic Church and Explosive Population Growth in the Philippines

Sex, the Catholic Church and Explosive Population Growth in the Philippines

E-mail Print PDF
Article Index
Sex, the Catholic Church and Explosive Population Growth in the Philippines
Sex and Religion in the Philippines : Impact on the Family - Poverty
Sex and Religion in the Philippines: Politics and the
Notes & Sources
All Pages

This three-part BBC documentary (see note at the end) uses "the interview" technique -- of the "common tao", government officials (including the former Mayor of Manila, and former President Joseph Estrada), ordinary Catholic priests -- to present the underlying and sometimes opposing forces that contribute to the explosive population growth of the Philippines.

Sex and Religion in the Philippines : Abortion, Banned Contraception (Part 1/3)

The first part provides a very brief overview of the historical entrenchment of the powerful Catholic Church in the Philippines, the only predominantly Christian country in Asia.


The Philippines has the highest growth rate among the highly-populated countries of the world. Consider these statistics, in 1950 the Philippines has a population of just over 20million -- four fold less than that of Japan. By 2025, which is only 15 years away, the Philippines will have a population more than Japan. Among the 10 largest countries of the world in 1950, all had populations greater than 47million. France was #12th (42M) in 1950.  The Philippines overtook France in 1984 (PHI 56M), Italy and United Kingdom in 1985 (PHI 57.7M), Germany in 2001 (PHI 83M), and is projected to overtake Japan in 2023 (PHI 127M) and Russia in 2024 (PHI 129M).

The explosive population growth in countries that were  considered "less developed", or more euphemistically "developing countries" is worldwide.  Even in 2000, only three Western countries were in the top 10 largest countries - United States (#3, 282M), Russia (#7, 147M) and Japan (#9, 127M). By 2024, only the United States (#3, 354M) would be the only Western (Caucasian) country in the top 10 list.  All the former largest Western countries of the 20th century would be supplanted by countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

This unchecked population growth in the Philippines, the highest growth rate in Asia among large countries of the world, contributes to the inability the Philippine goverment to cope with the administration and the economic funds to socio-economic infrastructure and services needed by an explosively growing population.

The aftermath is widespread poverty and widening gap between the rich few and the larger economically disadvantage Filipinos, even in times of economic prosperity.  [The Philippines in 2010 has an economic growth rate of greater than 8%, like a number of Asian countries, essentially escaping the current worldwide economic collapse prevalent in the United States and Europe.]

The widening gap between the privileged few and the larger Philippine populace contributes to socio-political instability and economic instability that totter the nation to socio-economic and consequent socio-political collapse.

The psyche of the agrarian Philippines of the 1950s and before was founded on large family. This was the backbone  the labor force within the family of an agrarian (pre-industrial society) to  economic stability.

In a society that was less dependent on agrarian economy, Filipinos aspire for the ideal "one boy, one girl" children of the nuclear Filipino family. This ideal runs counter to the dictum of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.

Irrespective of socio-political persuasion, many Filipinos, even the very poor, are beginning to realize that unchecked population growth, is a significant factor to the problems of the country.

A very well-known tour guide in Manila takes the narrator to the street markets of Quiapo just a stone-throw away from the much revered Quiapo Catholic church. With just a few show-and-tell from the tour guide,  the documentary provides a good encapsulation of the unique brand Catholicism, as practiced by Filipinos.

The first part of the documentary provides an insight  of a Western Roman Catholicism tightly integrated with the tradition of ancient pre-Spanish Philippines when the people worship the spirits and "Bathala (God)" bordering idolatry. The statues and images meant to represent the Christian God, as well as those of saints and other holy people in the Roman Catholic religion, are revered as if they are themselves the gods, the way ancient Romans, Greeks and other ancient cultures revere the idols that represent their gods.

Visit a Filipino home, you are likely to find an altar where you will find statues and images of the icons of Roman Catholicism.  The more well-off may even have a grotto, usually of Mother Mary, to bless and protect their home.  You may find a similar grotto for the patron saint of the barangay or the town.

Filipinos pray to their "departed family members and beloved relatives", as if their spirits  are the conduit to the Filipino "Bathala" (God).

Like other peoples of ancient cultures, Filipinos offer gifts (flowers, food, money) to the icons during the harvest season, celebrations (birthdays, baptisms, weddings, etc.) and even during difficult times (like when someone is grieviously ill in the family). As part of this culture, Filipinos also accept the idea of anting-anting (amulets), and all sorts of "magic" potions and concoctions.

In the Ilocano culture, there is practice called "Atang", much like the offerings of the ancient Greeks, Romans to their idols.  If a child got ill for example, after playing in a place that might have disturbed the spirits, an "atang" would be left in that location coupled with a prayer -- to appease the spirit.

All these practices would have been blasphemous in Roman Catholicism, especially so because the Philippines was colonized by Spain (mid 16th-late 19th century); also the height of the Inquisition in Europe, and more specifically in Spain.  Indeed, the clerics of Spanish Philippines did attempt to eradicate all vestiges of pre-Spanish Filipino culture but reverence of the icons, spirits and "Bathala (God)" flourishes today.

Many Filipino historians believe that practical friars of Catholism, during the early Spanish Philippines, might have capitalized on pre-Spanish Filipinos to spread Christianity in the colonized country. Thus, each "barangay" (barrio) and "poblacion" (the precursor of cities and towns of the Philippines today) was encouraged to adopt their own patron saint or other Catholic icon who are then celebrated during the "Fiesta".  It might not have escaped the Spanish friars that the "fiesta" brought a lot of material benefitis to the Church.

Whatever factors contributed, the Roman Catholic culture became the most indelible imprint that Spanish colonization imparted to the Filipino culture. [Unlike other countries colonized by Spain, the tribal Filipinos retained their ethnic cultures, including their ethnic languages. Only the the "mestizo" (mixed raise) Filipinos and the intelligentsia in the late 19th century adopted Spanish as their lingua franca.]

The first Philippine Republic that toppled the Spanish in 1896-1898 revolution was very anti-friars (though remained devoutly Catholic); thus the inclusion of the separation of Church and State in the first Philippine Constitution drafted and ratified in the Malolos convention in 1898.

And, yet Catholicism was so entrenched in the Filipino culture, even in their daily lives, thus the foundation of the power of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and its arrogation to meddle in government and politics, when the hierarchy sees fit.

However, as devoutly Catholic many Filipinos may be,  like many Roman Catholics throughout the world today, Filipinos are pratical enough to disregard Catholic Church teachings, if the teachings do not jive with their specific conditions of their lives.

This contradiction is the focus of the documentary -- how Filipinos try to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church  on sex and reproduction, and the stark reality in their own lives.  The example given in the first part of the documentary is the blatant sale of "Regla", a homemade concoction to induce abortion, in case of an unwanted pregnancy.

While not yet law of the land, just like in many predominantly Catholic countries -- Italy, France, Spain; this documentary is able to convey that many if not majority of the presnet day Filipinos do not kowtow to the dictums of the Catholic Church hierarchy in regard sex, family planning and reproduction.


Last Updated ( Friday, 08 October 2010 12:34 )