THE PHILIPPINES: DESTINY and PREPARING A NATION

THE PHILIPPINES: DEFINING A NATION’S ROLE and CHALLENGE
December 29, 2012

THE PHILIPPINES: DESTINY and PREPARING A NATION

THE PHILIPPINES

A momentous event is coming up for the Philippines. It is the celebration of 500 years of Christianity in 2021.

The Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, sailing under the flag of Spain, arrived in 1521, in the island of Limasawa.[1] The first Mass[2] was celebrated on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1521.[3] Magellan met with Rajah Humabon of Cebu, was able to heal an ill grandson, and in gratitude Humabon allowed 800 of his followers to be baptized. Also in 1521, Magellan gave a statue of the Santo Nino de Cebu to a Cebuano tribe that converted to Catholicism. Magellan’s arrival eventually led to Spanish colonization.[4]

For a long time, the Philippines was the only Christian nation in Asia. With 93.1 million Christians, it is the fifth largest Christian population in the world as of 2010, after the USA (246.8M), Brazil (176.4M), Mexico (107.8M), and Russia (102.6M). With 75.6 million Catholics, it is the third largest Catholic population in the world,[5] after Brazil (123.3M) and Mexico (95.6M).

How prepared are we to face this momentous event? How deserving will we be to celebrate this tremendous milestone? How would the Church in the Philippines look at that time? How robust would our spiritual lives be? What would we be able to offer to God?

What indeed is God’s plan for the Philippines?

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DESTINY

For a very long time, the Philippines was the only Christian nation in Asia, until the emergence of Timor-Leste in 2002. Asia is the continent with 64% of the world’s population. It includes the 2 largest nations in the world—China and India. It is the birthplace of most of the world’s mainstream religions—Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastranism. It is a continent that generally does not know or accept Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Being the only Christian nation in a vast sea of pagans, it is inevitable that the Church consider the Philippines as having a special role. Thus a prophetic role has been identified for the Philippines—to be God’s light in Asia.

Due to economic difficulties, many Filipinos have migrated to other nations, and many more have found work abroad as contractual workers. Now here is the interesting thing: many of these Filipinos are the ones animating the churches of the world, especially the western world, which is now largely post-Christian. Filipinos are filling up the pews in parishes in Europe as well as North America. Filipino nannies, in homes where they serve, are teaching children of non-Christians how to pray.

This has given rise to an expansion of the spiritual role of Filipinos. With a diaspora of over 12 million, Filipinos are no longer just to be God’s light in Asia, but now God’s light to the world.

– – – – –

PREPARING A NATION

According to God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the world, God makes use of instruments to accomplish His purposes. He calls and raises individuals, certainly. He also establishes and anoints groups and movements. God also builds up and empowers whole nations to be instruments of His will.

Now the witness of a whole nation is powerful. While an individual or a group can manifest the love of God and point to His purposes in the world, nothing can beat a whole nation doing so. While there are many individuals in all the countries throughout the world who are God-fearing and righteous, while there are many movements of renewal in different countries and of different nationalities bringing the good news into the lives of others, there are not that many nations that the world can recognize as truly God’s own, in the way that Israel was. Not many nations have the privilege of having a covenant with God that is truly lived out, where He is their God and they are His people. While people are impressed with the life of a true disciple of God, while many lives are changed through the work of a vibrant group or movement, the impact on the world of a whole nation that is one under God would be tremendous.

In fact, it would be nothing short of earthshaking!

Now God does want to shake up the earth, from out of its sinfulness and slide to self-destruction. And this is why God raises up nations for His purposes.

God raised up Israel, from which nation His own Son came into being. God raised up Spain, to spread Christianity across the seas to many distant lands. God raised up Ireland, to send out missionaries throughout the world and spread the faith.

Is it now the turn of the Philippines?

Consider what God has done and what God has allowed to happen to prepare the Philippines.

History

 

The Philippines was under Spanish rule for almost four centuries, from the mid-1500 to 1898. Spain brought and propagated Christianity in the country. Thus the Philippines today is a Christian nation, with about 86% of the population being Christians. Until predominantly Christian Timor-Leste gained its independence in 2002, the Philippines was the only Christian nation in Asia, where the majority of the world’s population lives.

On June 12, 1898, Filipino revolutionaries under General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed independence of the Philippines from Spain, in Cavite II el Viejo (present-day Kawit, Cavite). However, this declaration of independence was not recognized by Spain nor the USA. Spain later ceded the Philippines to the USA in the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War. The Philippine Revolutionary Government did not recognize this treaty, and the Philippine-American War started. The Filipinos lost that war.

Thus the United States took over from Spain. The Americans brought the English language and fostered a high degree of literacy. English is now the dominant language in the world. After the USA and the United Kingdom, the Philippines is the third largest English-speaking population in the world.

Then World War II came, and Japan ruled the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. This devastating war taught Filipinos the horrors of war and the need for peace in the world. Affliction and extreme suffering have also brought purification and an appreciation of the cross.

At the end of World War II, the USA granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946.

In 1972 Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. From this time until 1986 when he was driven out by a People Power revolution (EDSA I), the Filipinos suffered, due to military abuses, political repression, economic stagnation and massive corruption. This taught Filipinos the horrors of injustice, oppression and corruption. Filipinos also learned to be watchful of the enemy from within.

Geography

 

The Philippines is an island country, with 7,107 islands.[6] This helps insulate the country, though not totally, from illegal immigrants and from border conflicts.[7]

Having so many islands provides an extensive coastline (23,175 kilometers long) and some of the best beaches in the world. This provides abundant fishery resources and a vast potential for eco-tourism.

Much of the country has fertile soil. This provides a great potential for agricultural production and food self-sufficiency.

There is abundant fresh water, provided by many rivers and lakes, and even aquifers. There is a regular rainy season from June to November. This provides an important resource, especially at this time when ecologists are warning about a looming “water crunch” due to global warming, growing populations and pollution. Some are even speculating that the next world war will be fought over water resources.

The Philippines is strategically located. Right above and below it are two of the four countries with the largest populations, China lies to the north and Indonesia to the south. China is a growing superpower, and the only country at the moment capable of challenging the USA for regional hegemony. Indonesia is the nation with the biggest number of Muslims in the world.

In addition, the South China Sea[8] possibly holds the last unexplored tracts of vast oil and gas resources, concentrated around the Spratly and Paracel Islands, to which many nations including the Philippines lay claim. Thus, given present US world dominance, given the growing political and military strength of China, given current Muslim fundamentalism and its confrontation with the West especially the US, given the scramble for rich resources, given its traditional alignment with the US, given its strategic location, the Philippines finds itself in the midst of growing geo-political power plays.

There is a vast potential for evangelization in Asia, where the Church is present in only 3% of the population. However, in Asia reside and work 14% of the bishops, 10% of diocesan priests, 25% of women religious and 33% of men and women novices. In fact, Pope John Paul II has said that the 21st century will be the century for the evangelization of Asia.

Culture

 

Filipinos are of a mixed race and ancestry, a melting pot. Filipinos have Malay, Chinese, Spanish, American and European blood. While very Asian, the Philippines is also highly westernized.[9] This makes the Filipino a citizen of the world, better suited to appreciate both the eastern and western minds, and more open to accepting other races and cultures. Indeed, Filipinos are present and well integrated in practically all the countries of the world.

Filipinos are generally peaceable, gentle and friendly. They are patient, persevering and forbearing. In the midst of their sorrows they can still laugh and party. They are survivors. They can adapt well to different circumstances. Though somewhat unruly in their own country, they can become very law-abiding when living in other countries.

Most Filipinos are poor. This helps them appreciate the scourge of poverty and the injustice that breeds poverty. Due mainly to poverty, over 12 million Filipinos have left the country and are working/living in other countries, and this exodus continues. This provides a Filipino diaspora that can participate in the worldwide evangelization work.

Population

 

The Philippines has a large population of almost 100 million people.[10] It currently is the 12th largest country in population.

Now let us realize one important truth: population is power!

Just look at China, the most populous nation on earth, with over 1.3 billion Chinese. It was not too long ago that China was backward, and Chinese goods were equated with cheap low-quality products. But now China is a powerhouse economically, politically and militarily. China is the only nation that can and will threaten the United States’ standing as the only superpower in the world. Even with a decadent Communist system, and a late and chaotic entry into the world of capitalism, China is now suddenly thrust to center stage. And what can explain such phenomenal growth? One aspect is simply population!

It is the same thing with India, the only other billion-person country in the world. With its current population of over 1.2 billion, but with a growth rate much larger than China’s (at current rates, India will overtake China in 2050 with a population of 1.6 billion), it has the potential for power that can be mind-boggling.

This is what makes the developed Western nations fearful. Their hold on global power and dominance is threatened. Their continued exploitation of the world’s resources is threatened. This is why the countries of North America and Europe are so keen on limiting the populations of developing countries.

They are expending tremendous resources in promoting abortion, contraception and sterilization, in the guise of health care for women and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Millions of women in developing nations suffer death or serious injury from treatable and avoidable complications surrounding childbirth, and yet many Western nations and medical organizations have shown far more interest in contraception and abortion than in saving and improving the lives of mothers. The mortality rate for expectant mothers in Africa is as high as 1 in 16, and yet almost all the Western aid money for “reproductive health” is spent on contraceptives and abortion.

The population controllers present as their argument the specter of global hunger and poverty, due to dwindling resources in the world with which to feed and care for a bigger world population. But this is just a bogey. The truth is that there are more than enough resources in the world with which to feed and care for even double the current world population. The problem is not a lack of resources, but a lack of caring and sharing. And so in considering the so-called “population problem,” it is not the big populations of the developing world that are the culprits, but it is rather the populations of the developed Western world, which are consuming so much more than their fair and just share of world resources.

Population is power. And it is in accordance with the prophetic role of the Philippines to continue to have a strong and vibrant growth rate. This is not to say that Filipinos are to become irresponsible in bringing children into the world. They should practice responsible parenthood and have only those children that they can properly care for. In considering this however, generosity and even sacrifice are called for. Filipinos are not to go the way of other countries whose people think only of themselves, of their careers and personal well-being, to the point of not wanting the responsibility and “burden” of children. Given that the Philippines is rich in resources, and if her citizens take on a relative simplicity of lifestyle and practice community sharing, the nation can support a much bigger population.

In the meantime that the Philippines cannot fully care for its growing population, due not to lack of resources but due to injustice and lack of sharing in its own land, its population can continue to be exported to reinforce the Filipino diaspora that is making its presence felt in the countries of the world. This might seem like a terrible thing to propose, but we need to see this with spiritual eyes. Spreading the army throughout the battlefield of the world is in accordance with the plan of God for the Philippines! This would be especially desirable if whole families are “exported” so as not to break up the family.

By the way, the Philippines also has a young population. Half are below 21 years old. Those up to 14 years old comprise 35% of the population. Median age is 22.9 years. Such youth provides vibrancy, strength and idealism. It also assures continuity for whatever God starts.

Further, Manila (or Metro Manila), the capital of the Philippines, is a megacity of 20.3 million people. It is the tenth largest of 21 megacities in the world as of 2011.[11] As such, Manila has the critical mass and infrastructure with which to build a strong base for worldwide mission. Being a modern city and one manifesting the marked contrasts between the rich and the poor, Manila is an ideal laboratory for testing, implementing and refining the elements of Christian mission, and serving as a model and base for the work in other countries.

Population is power. But that is just a corollary. What population truly is is God’s blessing. From the very beginning, God blessed the first couple, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28). Don’t miss what God said. With His blessing came the instruction to multiply and fill the earth! Then in His instructions to His chosen people as He prepared to bring them into the promised land, God said: “I will look with favor upon you, and make you fruitful and numerous, as I carry out my covenant with you.” (Lev 26:9). Population was a mark of favor upon His people, and a manifestation of the living out of His covenant with them.

The nations of the Western world have cut their population growth rates through the abominable acts of abortion, contraception and sterilization. Some nations have gone too far, incurring a negative growth rate. Now their societies are aging, social security within their economies is threatened, and eventual extinction of their race is a dire possibility. They have chosen the path of the culture of death. They are committing demographic suicide. Unfortunately they seek to impose this diabolical culture on the developing world.

That is not God’s way for the Philippines. In this land God’s people are to live out a culture of life.

Marriage and family

 

The Philippines is the only Christian country left that has not legalized divorce.[12] Though there are many Filipino couples who have separated or who have gotten divorces outside the country, by and large marriage is still considered an important institution. Though there is continuing pressure from certain legislators prodded by global anti-family forces to legalize divorce, and legislation to this effect has been introduced from time to time, such initiatives have so far not been successful.[13]

Family ties are strong in the Philippines. Extended family living is common, where a surviving parent would live with his/her married child’s family. Clans often maintain close ties, with regular family get-togethers. Financial help is readily given to relatives in need. The Philippine economy is propped up by the remittance of billions of dollars by overseas Filipino workers to their families.[14] By and large, children still give their parents the honor and respect due them.

This gives Filipinos an edge, in connection with a promise of God made long ago. This is about the fourth commandment given at Sinai: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord, your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and prosperity in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Dt 5:16). Do you desire a long life and prosperity in the land? Then honor your parents. This promise connected with the commandment was reiterated by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: “‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise, ‘that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.’” (Eph 6:2-3).

There is every reason to believe that such a promise is still operative in this day and age. Family relationships that are in place is at the heart of the well-being of a nation.


[1] In Southern Leyte.

[2] There is a dispute as to the exact location of the first Mass, primarily between two locations: Limasawa and Masao (Butuan, Agusan del Norte).

[3] Others claim that Christianity started in the Philippines in 1565, with the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. His arrival on February 13, 1565, started Spanish colonization and settlement, with the first permanent settlement established in San Miguel on the island of Cebu.

[4] Spanish colonial rule lasted until 1898.

[5] The USA is a close fourth, with 74.1 million Catholics.

[6] At low tide.

[7] However, the claim of China to the whole South China Sea is a serious infringement on our territory and a threat to regional or even world peace.

[8] A portion of this vast sea is called the West Philippine Sea by the Philippines.

[9] Filipinos are known to copy western styles of dress, entertainment and culture.

[10] Population estimates range from 95 million to a high of 103.8 million (as of July 2011).

[11] Though there are 26 cities that have populations of 10M or more, qualifying them to be considered megacities.

[12] Not counting Vatican state.

[13] There is a reproductive health bill, pushed by the President himself, that was approved by both houses of Congress in December 2012.

[14] Official remittances coursed through banks and agents grew to US$21 billion in 2012. But official remittances are only a fraction of all remittances. Remittances by unofficial, including illegal, channels are estimated to be 30 to 40% higher than the official Bangko Sentral figure.

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