Dy, James Andrew D. SA 21-C Silva, Maria Patricia T. March 8, 2011 Uy, Christian R. Better Catholics and Better Filipinos Catholicism in the Philippines right now, is very prevalent, filled with all sorts of beliefs and values that are constantly being practiced by the Filipinos. How exactly did this Catholicism come to be? It was first introduced to the Filipino people by the Spaniards, our past colonizers, and this was what they first used to educate and to civilize the olden Filipino people.
At the time, the Filipinos, though perceived to be simplistic, and were behind in terms of technology, arts, and the like in comparison to the western world, they already had their own culture, with its own set of respective belief and values, and thus, the Spaniards themselves were finding it rather difficult to simply teach their belief of Catholicism to the natives when they already believed in something else.
In order to power through this and still be able to promulgate Catholicism, instead of taking over and erasing the Filipino culture, surprisingly, the opposite happened. The new teachings of the Catholic faith were infused and combined with the pre-existing beliefs of the natives. Frank Lynch defines Folk Catholicism as the combination of the culture of the Filipinos to the “usual” Catholic religious beliefs, and that is how Folk Catholicism is formed.
To this day, Folk Catholicism is very much prevalent in the country, and in fact it can be regularly seen among the people. The biggest testament of which, is the appropriation of Catholic beliefs to Filipino culture can be seen in the way we celebrate our very own festivals in the Philippines and the way we celebrate known events like Lent, Christmas and even the Feasts of the Dead, all of these have become appropriated to the Philippine Culture to be centered around family and community solidarity.
Ultimately, Lynch believed that the way Catholicism was appropriated with the Filipino Culture was a great way of promoting the Catholic faith, for it was able to help them better understand and live Christ’s message. The Catholic faith has been manifested in a physical form that is very Filipino, and thus, it helps the Filipinos themselves to live by the teachings. In addition to that, as what was previously stated, the Folk Catholicism that has been created solidifies the community and the amily, thereby bearing proof that being Better Catholics did indeed push the Filipinos to become better themselves. However, through the flow of time, and with all the changes that has happened technologically, socially and etc. , can this opinion still hold up? Has Folk Catholicism continued to be complementary to the “original” Catholic faith? The answer to that question lies within the heart of Manila, in Quiapo Church and Plaza Miranda. In the hodgepodge of people, paraphernalia and seemingly random clutter of items and beliefs, there lies the truest form of the present Folk Catholicism.
To start off, inside the confines of the Quiapo Church, we were able to see a very solemn showing of faith by the devotees, from those sitting in the pews, confessing to priests and even to those who were slowly progressing through the center aisle while kneeling. Thousands of these devotees flock inside the church to pray and confess, and of course, to witness the Black Nazarene, the patron of the Basilica of Quiapo. A practice of which includes the “pahalik”, where devotees wait for their turn to touch the foot of the Black Nazarene image near the altar.
There is even the blessing of images of the Black Nazarene after every mass which serves as a constant reminder that there is a God whom they worship and firmly believe in, and most gloriously, Catholics, Filipinos and foreigners alike, gather to witness the procession of the Black Nazarene around Manila one in which they literally battle for position to get the chance of having their cloths, rosaries, and other accessories blessed by the Black Nazarene through a simple touch to the image.
Needless to say, the power of the Catholic Faith is strong within the Quiapo Church. Immediately outside however, is a different story. In Plaza Miranda, it seems as if everything is opposite. There are women who, for a fee, would pray the entire Rosary for anyone who needs a prayer but is too busy to do so. Also, vendors are all over the place selling a lot of different and exotic products.
Some sell amulets of protection or “agimat”, some sell different herbal medicines, and some even sell mystical stones said to grant the bearer invisibility and protection over all things, and most striking of all is the presence of fortune-tellers who, for a measly 100 pesos, will use palmistry and a number of different tarot card readings to predict your future, a very tell-tale sign of the Occult which the Church is very much against. Everything there, from the amulets, and most specifically the fortune-tellers are all eemingly against the church’s teachings, and thus it seems as if the opinion and belief of Frank Lynch regarding the positivity of Folk Catholicism has been seemingly proven wrong. Seemingly. At the outset, everything that is inside the church is so massively different from what is outside. It is easy for one to think that the ideals both sectors possess have grown to be complete opposites that the church and the group of fortune tellers and mystic vendors outside are in opposition with each other.
However, when we were able to interview both the fortune-tellers and the mystic vendors, they did indeed seem to veer off from what the church teaches by saying both extraordinary things (for the vendors) and occult advices (for the fortune-tellers), however the main point of what both of them said were very surprising and familiar; “You will get what you dream and want, if you strive hard and pray to God. ” In fact, even while giving your fortune, the fortune-teller continues to mention prayer to God, and continued reverence towards Him as being the most important part of living your life.
From that statement, and from our observations around Quiapo, it can be seen that what has been believed to be Folk Catholicism from before, has not actually significantly changed today. The beliefs and values revolving around the continued solidarity of the family and the community is still very much alive, as seen in the hubbub of people both inside and outside of the church, most of which are composed of (much like in the past) families.
All in all, the way people have lived their faith, when compared to the Folk Catholicism of the past, indeed has changed. However, the change that has happened, did not affect the core value of our Folk Catholicism that was concluded by Frank Lynch. To this day, our focus on the family and the community still continue to resemble the words of Frank Lynch; Folk Catholicism has helped us become better Filipinos and better Catholics.
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