Protestantism in the Philippines

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Protestant denominations arrived in the Philippines in 1898, after the United States took control of the Philippines from Spain, first with United States Army chaplains and then within months civilian missionaries.

Protestants makes up nearly 11% of the Filipino population.[1] They include a wide variety of Pentecostal, Evangelical and independent churches. Some denominations were founded locally.


Percentage of Protestants in the Philippines by Region[2]


It is likely that there was some Protestant activity in the Philippines before 1898, such as during the British occupation of the Philippines, but there was no churches or missions established. One alleged early Filipino Protestant was Paulino Zamora, father of Methodist bishop Nicolás Zamora. Some consider Paulino to be the first Protestant in the Philippines. At the time of the Philippine Revolution, Nicolas Zamora was already preaching the gospel, making him one of the earliest Protestant ministers in the Philippines, even before the arrival of American missionaries.[3]

Protestantism began to seriously develop in the Philippines after the Spanish–American War when the United States acquired the Philippines from the Spanish with the 1898 Treaty of Paris.[4] During American Colonial Period, the Catholic Church was disestablished as the state religion, giving Protestant missionaries more opportunities to enter the islands. In addition, there was a backlash against the Hispanic Catholicism and a greater acceptance of Protestantism represented by the Americans.[5] The dominance of the Catholic Church in all aspects of life in Spanish Philippines and Protestant anti-Catholic animosity were prominent reasons for the start of Protestant missionary activity.[6] In 1901 the Evangelical Union was established in the Philippines to co-ordinate activities amongst the Protestant denominations and lay the foundations for an indigenous religious movement.[7]

The first Protestant service during this era was on Sunday, August 28, 1898.[a] Chaplain George Stull, a member of The Methodist Episcopal Church, came with the occupying forces. Although his primary duty was to minister to the soldiers, he recorded in his diary that that first service, held in an old Spanish dungeon facing Manila Bay, was attended not only by his own men but by some Filipinos as well. He commented on this service:[8]

"That the power of God will use this day to make a good Catholic better, any weak American stronger, any backslider ashamed, and the gloomy old dungeon the beginning of wonderful things in these Islands, is my prayer."[9]

The Comity Agreement (1898–1941)[edit]

Jaro Evangelical Church, the first Baptist Church in the Philippines and second Protestant Church in the Philippines (first outside Manila), after the Central United Methodist Church (1899)).
The Medical Arts building of Iloilo Mission Hospital, founded in 1901 by the American Presbyterian missionaries. It is the first and oldest Protestant hospital in the country. At present, the hospital is affiliated under the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.

After the defeat of the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay by the U.S. Navy's Asiatic Squadron, Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist leaders met in 1898 in New York to discuss how to bring Protestantism to the Philippines. The result was a comity agreement that divided the Philippines into missionary areas by denomination to avoid future conflicts among themselves and their converts.[10] Only one Protestant denomination would be in each area.

The meeting was followed by another gathering in 1901 by the early missionaries in Manila to further discuss the comity agreement with three specific major agenda items:

  • "to organize the Evangelical Union,"
  • "choose a common name for Protestant churches," and
  • "delineate the geographical work allotments for each church."[11]

From 1898 to 1930 the different Protestant denominations that joined the comity agreement were:

Manila was open to all denominations and mission agencies.[12] The Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines did not join because they wanted to go to all parts of the archipelago.[13] American Protestant Missions (APM) emphasized institutional ministry and medical missions in their evangelistic and missions endeavors.

For a short time the comity agreement worked well, until the situation grew more intricate and splits occurred. The Methodists split in 1909 when Nicolas Zamora founded the Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF). This shattered the agreement. Thus, the IEMELIF became the first indigenous evangelical denomination, an all-Filipino-supported church at that time, with Methodist Ilocanos from Northern Luzon moved into the areas of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Mindanao.[citation needed] Baptist Ilonggos migrated from Iloilo to Central Cotabato, traditionally Christian and Missionary Alliance territory. As this kind of movement increased, the sharp boundaries between the different comity areas became obscured.[14]

Divisions came with growth and expansion, and personality clashes, racial tensions, the dynamics of nationalism, cultural differences, power struggles and other non-theological factors contributed to the schisms. In the 1920s the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the United States affected the Philippines, causing further division. By 1921, some nineteen independent denominations were registered with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and important splits occurred among the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and Disciples of Christ. Several small denominations, some of them entirely under national leadership, emerged.[15]

Unity of the churches was still a goal. In 1929, the United Brethren, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches formed the United Evangelical Church in the Philippines. In 1932, six of the smaller indigenous denominations of Presbyterian and Methodist backgrounds formed the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Cristo, or now more commonly known as the Unida Christian Church. The assembly of these indigenous denominations was called by Don Toribio Teodoro, owner of the Ang Tibay shoes. The National Christian Council was founded in 1929 as a successor of the Evangelical Union. This was followed in 1938 by the organization of the Philippine Federation of Evangelical Churches. With the coming of World War II and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, the United Evangelical Church underwent severe trying circumstances when the mission agencies were completely cut off from the United States. American missionaries were incarcerated and mission funds were unexpectedly discontinued.

World War II and independence[edit]

To deal with the diverse Protestant groups, the Japanese during their occupation of the Philippines during Second World War pressed for the formation of the Evangelical Church of the Philippines which combined thirteen denominations. However, most of the larger denominations such as Methodist, Episcopal, Unida and other independent churches refused to join. After the war, the Evangelical Church of the Philippines further fragmented, but the Disciples of Christ, the United Brethren, the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Cristo, the Evangelica Nacional, some individual congregations of the IEMELIF, the Philippine Methodist and the Presbyterian Churches remained intact. Several churches united to form the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in 1948. In 1949 the United Evangelical Church, the Philippine Federation of Evangelical Churches, and the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Cristo formed the Philippine Federation of Christian Churches, now called the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. Today, Protestant and evangelical churches and denominations are grouped into major councils of churches: The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) for mainline Protestant churches and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) for evangelical churches, organized in 1964.

Several independent church organizations emerged in the 1970s and mid-1980s, such as the Jesus Is Lord Church Worldwide, the Greenhills Christian Fellowship founded in 1978 by the Conservative Baptists, the Bread of Life Ministries International founded in 1982, and the Christ's Commission Fellowship and Victory Christian Fellowship both established in 1984. These churches used mass media to spread evangelical Christianity in the country and to establish more non-denominational, Pentecostal, and charismatic churches. These churches[which?] grew up rapidly and are considered one of the major Protestant megachurches in the Philippines.[16]

A major factor in the development of Philippine Protestantism is the explicit expression of religious freedom found in Section 5, Article III ("Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution, separating church and state. The concept and its English phrasing has been present in every national charter since the 1935 Constitution promulgated by the Commonwealth government.[17] The Philippine Youth Movement founded in 1926 boosted the move to develop the indigenous Protestant church nationwide.[18]

A theme in the development of Protestantism in the Philippines is the tension between the religion and nationalism. After an initial period of resentment toward American missionaries, Filipinos gradually accepted Protestantism.[19] During the 1920s and '30s, American Methodist missionaries openly supported Filipino independence from the United States.[20]


Silliman University was founded by the early Protestant American missionaries in 1901.

Protestant missionaries founded many schools and universities in the Philippines. Some of which are founded by early American Protestant missionaries.[21] Most notable of these is Silliman University, the first Protestant school in the country and the first university founded by Americans in Asia. Silliman is followed by the Central Philippine University, its sister institution, and other institutions of higher learning such as Trinity University of Asia, West Negros University, Filamer Christian University, the Philippine Christian University and the Adventist University of the Philippines.

Institution Founded Founding affiliation Founded (Nationality) Description
Silliman University 1901 as Silliman Bible School Presbyterian American First American and Protestant founded school and university in Asia and in the Philippines.
Central Philippine University 1905 as Jaro Industrial School Baptist American First Baptist founded and second American university in Asia and in the Philippines.
Filamer Christian University 1904 as Capiz Home School Baptist American
Adventist University of the Philippines 1917 as Philippine Seventh-day Adventist Academy Seventh-day Adventist Church Filipino/American
Philippine Christian University 1946 as Manila Union University Methodist (United Methodist Church) American
Wesleyan University-Philippines 1946 as Philippine Wesleyan College Methodist (United Methodist Church) Filipino
West Negros University 1948 as West Negros College Baptist (now acquired by the STI Education Systems Holdings Inc.) Filipino
Trinity University of Asia 1963 as Trinity College of Quezon City Episcopalian American

List of major denominations and prominent independent churches[edit]

Emblem Name Orientation Foundation Leadership Headquarters Membership References
Alliance of Bible Christian Churches of the Philippines Bishop Chito Ramos 102 Scout Rallos Street

Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

Assemblies of God Pentecostal 1940 Malinta, Valenzuela 360,000
Bread of Life Ministries International Evangelical 1982 Rev. Noel Tan Crossroad Center, Paligsahan, Quezon City 35,000
Cathedral of Praise Full Gospel 1954 Dr. David E. Sumrall COP Main Campus, Ermita, Manila
Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines 1901 (initial formation)
1947 (official)
Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines Calvinist 1962 Rev. Ben Gonzaga 5,000
Christ's Commission Fellowship Non-Denominational 1984 Dr. Peter Fu Tan-Chi CCF Center, Pasig 100,000
Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches Mainline Baptist 1900 (initial formation)
1935 (formal)
Rev. Danilo Azuela Borlado[22] Compound Fajardo-Arguelles Sts., Jaro Iloilo City 5000 PHILIPPINES 600,000[23]
Door of Faith

Church Phils.

Full Gospel

Leopoldo Mazaredo Quezon City, Philippines
Episcopal Church in the Philippines Anglican 1901 (under USA)
1990 (autonomy)
Cathedral Heights, Quezon City 125,000
Church of the Foursquare Gospel in the Philippines Pentecostal / Charismatic 1929 Rev. Dr. Delfin L. Corona #1 F. Castillo Street, Marilag, Project 4, Quezon City 1109 144,000
Seal of IEMELIF.png Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF) Methodist 1909 Rev. Noel M. Abiog Beulah Land IEMELIF Center Marytown Circle, Greenfields 1 Subd., Brgy. Kaligayahan, Quirino Highway, Novaliches, Quezon City, 1124
Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Cristo (Unida Christian Church) Evangelical 1932 Rev. Richard Buenaventura 25,000
Coat of Arms of the Philippine Independent Church (Aglipayan Church).png Philippine Independent Church (Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Aglipayan Church) Independent Catholic, Anglo-Catholic 1902 The Most Reverend Rhee M. Timbang, D.D. Ermita, Manila 917,000 [24]
Jesus Is Lord Church Worldwide (JILCW) Full Gospel 1978 Eddie Villanueva Manila, Philippines 1,000,000[25] (Worldwide)
Lutheran Church in the Philippines Lutheran 1957 Rev. Antonio del Rio Reyes Lutheran Center

#4461 Old Santa Mesa Street,

Santa Mesa, Manila

Philippines Central Conference (United Methodist Church) Methodist 200,540
Presbyterian Church of the Philippines Presbyterian 1987 Rev. Danilo Yandan Pasig 11,000
Seventh-day Adventist Church Adventist 1863 (US)
1905 (PH)
Election every 5 years in 3 Unions (North, Central, South) Luzon, Pasay

Visayas, Cebu City

Mindanao, Cagayan De Oro City

> 1.1 million 26



Federation of Southern Baptist Conventions in the Philippines Baptist No. 24 Kanlaon Street Brgy. Sta. Teresita 1114 Quezon City PHILIPPINES 49,501[26]
The Salvation Army Holiness Movement 1865 (Int'l.)
1937 (PH)
Gen.Brian Peddle (International) THQ Malate, Manila
United Church of Christ in the Philippines Mainline Methodist/Calvinist 1901 (early formation)
1948 (official)
West Triangle, Quezon City 1,500,000
Victory Evangelical 1984 Manny Carlos Every Nation Building, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig 80,000[27]
Word of Hope Pentecostal Word of Hope Christian Family Church, Veterans Village, Project 7, Quezon City 50,000 Affiliated with Assemblies of God

Some are members of the Association of Pastors for Outreach and Intercession, G12 Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, Philippines for Jesus Movement, Christian Conference of Asia, World Methodist Council and the World Council of Churches.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ It was likely that there were Protestant services held in the Philippines during the British Occupation of Manila in the 1760s, at least for soldiers like this 1898 service.


  1. ^ "Protestant Christianity in the Philippines". Religious Literacy Project. Harvard Divinity School. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  2. ^ "Philippines Population Surpassed 100 million people". Philippine Statistics Authority. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  3. ^ Walsh, John (1986). "Religious Societies: Methodist and Evangelical 1738–1800". Studies in Church History. 23: 279–302. doi:10.1017/s0424208400010652. ISSN 0424-2084.
  4. ^ Deats, 1967, p. 91
  5. ^ Deats, 1967, p. 92
  6. ^ Anderson, 1969, p. 298
  7. ^ Deats, 1967, p. 95
  8. ^ The Story of Methodism in the Philippines - EARLY BEGINNINGS Archived February 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Homer Stuntz, 1940, pp. 415-416
  10. ^ Guillermo & Verora, pp. 1–3
  11. ^ Guillermo & Verora, p. 3.
  12. ^ Tuggy & Toliver, p. 19
  13. ^ James H. Montgomery and Donald A. McGavran, pp. 41–51
  14. ^ Tuggy & Oliver, pp. 136–40.
  15. ^ Frank Laubach, p. 23
  16. ^ McGrath, Alister E. (2008) Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution: A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First London: Regnum Books (p 454 to 455)
  17. ^ Elwood, 1969, p. 370
  18. ^ Anderson, 1969, p. 296
  19. ^ Deats, 1967, p. 132
  20. ^ Deats, 1967, p. 142
  21. ^ Philippines - Religion Archived December 24, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University, Retrieved 12-22-13.
  22. ^ "Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, Inc". Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  23. ^ "Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, Inc. | Baptist World Alliance". July 21, 2022. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  24. ^ "Table 1.10; Household Population by Religious Affiliation and by Sex; 2010" (PDF). 2015 Philippine Statistical Yearbook. East Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines: Philippine Statistics Authority: 1–30. October 2015. ISSN 0118-1564. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  25. ^ "About Bro Eddie and JIL".
  26. ^ "Luzon Convention of Southern Baptist Churches, Inc. | Baptist World Alliance". July 21, 2022. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  27. ^ Bird, Warren (November 25, 2015). "Philippines: Victory Megachurch Building on Discipleship". Retrieved April 20, 2023.


  • Deats, R., Nationalism and Christianity in the Philippines (Dallas, 1967)
  • Anderson, G. H., ‘Providence and Politics behind Protestant Missionary Beginnings in the Philippines’, in G. Anderson (ed.), Studies in Philippine Church History (London, 1969)
  • Merlyn L. Guillermo and L. P. Verora, Protestant Churches and Missions in the Philippines, vol. 1 (Valenzuela, Metro Manila: Agape Printing Services, 1982)
  • A. Leonard Tuggy and Ralph Toliver, Seeing the Church in the Philippines (Manila: OMF, 1972), pp. 26–53 discussed the Spanish–American War.
  • International Baptist Mission for Asians Philippines,
  • James H. Montgomery and Donald A. McGavran, The Discipling of a Nation (Manila: Global Church Growth Bulletin, 1980)
  • Frank Laubach, People of the Philippines (New York: George H. Dora, 1925), p. 23.
  • Homer Stuntz (1904). The Philippines and the Far East. Jennings and Pye.
  • Elwood, D. J., ‘Varieties of Christianity in the Philippines’, in G. Anderson (ed.), Studies in Philippine Church History (London, 1969)
  • Missionary to the Philippines for Wycliffe Bible Translators