CHRISTIANITY FOR THE HEATHENS
The Spanish colonization of Manila was meant to be a stepping stone towards the
evangelization of millions of heathens in China. Thus, the Dominican friars, especially those in Binondo Church, quickly learned the Chinese language from the Chinese. It was no accident that among the first three books printed in Manila in 1593, two were in Chinese and Spanish. Lorenzo Ruiz, our first Filipino Saint, was baptized in Binondo Church. His father was pure Chinese.
Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, founder of the first Beaterio of the Virgin Mary was born to a Chinese father and an indio mother. Typical of the mestiza families in early Spanish occupation, both Lorenzo Ruiz and Mother Ignacia were raised as Malays by their Filipina mothers.
Most mestizos during the Spanish were raised Catholic, and also practiced some Chinese religious customs. Many mestizos grew up in households where local, Catholic, Hispanic, and Chinese customs were practiced together.
WHAT THE TSINOYS BELIEVE TODAY.
For example, at the wake for former Philippine President Corazon Aquino at the Manila Cathedral in August 2009, a funeral mass officiated by His Eminence Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales was conducted side by side with a Buddhist service. Tsinoys of all ages performed the rite of Three Bows, showing great respect to the country’s beloved leader.
Is it Buddist? Taoist? It is important to distinguish Chinese religion as a broader category from either Buddhism or Taoism. Long before the latter two developed as religious traditions, there was already a Chinese religious sense that included the veneration of ancestors and divination.
Taoism has absorbed the Virgin Mary, Sto Nino, and many Buddhist bodhisattvas that they gave new names to. For example, in Chinese Buddhism, the formal name of Guanyin is Guan Shi Yin Pusa 观世音菩萨, but in Taoism or folk religion, she is simply Kwan Nim Ma 观音妈.
Over time, Chinese religion became the amalgamation of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, to the extent that some call it the 三教 (Three Religions) taken as one. Under Chinese religion are a plethora of folk practices which do not necessarily belong to any one of the three religions.
In the Philippines, Catholicism and Chinese religion can be practiced together: the 三教 can become 综合教 (mixed religions).