Idolatry in the Philippines


Since my arrival in the Philippines i have been greatly worried about the numerous festivals that have spiritual relations. I clearly understand the Biblical message on idolatry but couldn’t help relate it to the experience where these fiestas and events are held of high esteem and almost unquestionable. At first i didn’t want to sound strange or totally out of touch with reality as this has a lot of significance to the lives of the people in the Philippines. I have been invited to attend several of them but have always rejected such offers as i deem it to be idolatry but do people really know this or believe in it? Philippines being largely a Catholic nation it’s somehow difficult for people to understand and appreciate what this means because the Catholic religion being more ritualistic and sacramental ordains some of these practices and for the majority, it’s only but normal to accept. Just this year i have had some conversation with a group of missionaries who spent more time working in Manila and we came up with a short list of some of the common festivals or celebrations in the Philippines. The ones listed below doesn’t make the list of all festivals for there are many that have been left out.  This isn’t to confirm any claim of idolatry but to help us clearly understand and appreciate the second commandment of the Bible which in Exodus 20 : 4-6 says ” You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

In January this year there was a celebration of the Black Nazarene where a big black cross claimed to represent the statute of Christ is taken out for a procession and thousands of people seek to touch it in the hope of miracles happening. I thought of starting with this because it captured my attention most seeing people reaching out for the cross, ignoring that Jesus can operate silent and invisible miracles without touching the black cross. I hope you get to read through some of the popular events and appreciate what God requires of you at a time when we tend to glorify certain things instead of our Creator.

Philippines festivals 

Ati-atihan Festival

Kalibo, Aklan, An incredible party of heavy drinking, dancing and singing in the streets headed with participants on their uniquely decorated tribal costume

Sinulog Festival

Cebu City, A carnival parade of people in outrageous costumes, decorated vehicles and assorted props

Dinagyang Festival

Iloilo City, A choreographed parades of costumed tribes similar to that of Ati-atihan

International Bamboo Organ Festival A ten day cultural event showcasing the magnificent bamboo organ of St. Joseph’s Parish of Las Pinas

Holy Monday Paete, Laguna – a procession of carved images of Christ’s and saints moved to appear realistic

Good Friday barefoot procession for the death of Christ

Easter Sunday procession and dramatizations of Mary’s meeting with resurrected Christ

November 1 All Saint’s Day A nationwide holiday honoring the dead. The celebration is held with gatherings of parties and a whole day feasting in the cemetery.

“Our Lady of Penafrancia Procession” Naga City- People from all over the country flock this town to participate a week long festival in honor of the town’s religious icon. The highlight is the loading of the virgin of Penafrancia onto a gaily decorated barge and carefully paraded along the Naga River.

December 25 Christmas Day

The whole country celebrates the birth of Christ with midnight mass held on December 24, followed by the midnight supper or noche buena. Christmas day or Decmber 25 is the gathering of families and gift giving.

July 4-7 Pagoda Festival- held in Bocaue, Bulacan- a town just outside Metro Manila. A river parade of decorated barge called Pagoda, and small boats is held to honor the holy cross found in Wawa river. To get there, drive along the north expressway, and exit at Sta. Maria or Bocaue. At the toll, turn left.

Fourth Week Sinulog De Tanjay Festival- celebrated by the townsfolk of Tanjay, Negros Oriental, this week long fiesta features the tradition of Sinulog. People in their colorful native costumes are paraded around town with shows of horse fights reenacting the battle between Filipinos and Spanish.

1 Corinthians 10:1-22 (English Standard Version)

Warning Against Idolatry

1For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

6Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

14Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

You can check for a list of other festivals by clicking here


One response to “Idolatry in the Philippines

  1. copy brother. thank you for this blog. It was only when I went out of the Philippines that I realized that this is pure idolatry.

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