This island nation has a remarkable people and an equally remarkable past. The roots of this modern nation go back to the early 1500's when Ferdinand Magellan, and his conquistadors, claimed the islands on behalf of the king of Spain. Spain ruled the country for almost 400 years, during which time they subjected the native Filipinos to a life of servitude and poverty, the residue of which still remains to this day. The Catholic Church went to great lengths to sanitize the people of their "heathen ways", very often eliminating those who ventured to oppose
them. Perhaps the most famous of these was Dr. Jose Rizal, a nationalist hero who opposed the government, and most especially the oppression of the church. His execution is considered to be one of the turning points of the
Philippine independence movement.
Spanish rule in the Philippines ended after the Spanish-American War. America laid claim to the country as part of the war settlement and designated it as one of its territories. During this colonial period, the Philippines experienced some very turbulent times with several unsuccessful attempts on the part of nationalists Filipinos to wrest power from the Americans.
Second World War up to Present...
The Philippines played a significant role in the Second World War. At first it was occupied by Japan but later
became the battleground where momentum of the "War in the Pacific" shifted in favor of the Allies. The people suffered great loss and indignities at the hands of the Japanese. America granted the country its final independence shortly after the war, on July 4, 1947.
Since then, the Philippines has been wrought with various internal struggles, ranging from militant extremists and Communist rebels to corrupt officials and dictators. In 1986, the people deposed then President Ferdinand Marcos and adopted a new constitution. With difficulties in the South and government corruption still a major problem, the Philippines of today is a nation seeking to achieve peace and moral independence. Issues of the western world are quickly eroding the "old fashioned" ways and western food, dress, music, business tactics, and vices continue to increase their influence, and especially upon the younger generation.
The Philippines of today is a land of extreme poverty and human suffering. Its cities are severely overcrowded with a population density 15 times that of even the most crowded American cities with the same land area! Filipino families are large, in comparison to American families, with 8-10 members! These large families and crowded living conditions put a lot of pressure on the family breadwinner. Jobs, or rather the lack of them, are a major problem. The available jobs yield very low salaries. Middle class workers, such as teachers and policemen, earn between
$150-$200 per month! The national minimum wage is about $5.00 U.S. per day however the "minimum wage" in the Philippine job setting is used as a MAXIMUM wage rather than a minimum!
Amid all of this, we have the multifaceted arena of modern religion. While Catholicism still holds about 85% of the people, their hold is weakening as more and more people realize their newfound freedoms. Religion is a very important part of Filipino life because many see the afterlife as the only thing worth living for. This desire for eternal rest provides us with a grand opportunity to teach the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ. Most Filipinos are ignorant about what the Bible has to say and respond very positive when offered the chance to study. Compared with the other countries of Asia, the Philippines stands out because it is the only Asian nation where ENGLISH is a major language. The Philippines is also the ONLY Asian nation that is not dominated by Islam or Buddhism.
This, then, is a brief description of the life facing some 80% of the Philippines' more than 80,000,000 Filipinos, who live scattered out over some 7,100 islands, which if combined together would result in a land area one third the size of the state of Texas! (Could you imagine 80 million people living in East Texas?)