HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 8 no. 1 (2008)

Colonial Apostles: A Discourse on Syncretism and the Early American Protestant Missions in the Philippines

Joseph T. Raymond

Discipline: Social Science, Religion



The popular discourse pertaining to the colonial experience of the Philippines under the United States is commonly placed within the context of imperialism and its economic motives seen as a main catalyst for colonial aspirations. The colonial experience, however, is complex and can be explained beyond this conventional view. Colonialism serves as a channel for the accelerated mutation of colonized societies; such that, the colonizers as much as the colonized, are active participants in the dynamics of the colonial encounter. As civilizations interact in a world system, syncretism takes place; this is the blending of elements from different cultural traditions, the result being that a foreign tradition becomes meaningful in a land far from its origin. This acceptance of foreign belief practices is made possible due to the presence of associated indigenous values amongst Filipinos. These values of karangalan (dignity), katarungan (justice), and kalayaan (freedom) which emanate from a core value of kapwa (fellowmen) served as cultural bridges that accelerated the acceptance of the new faith. Thus, it is possible to re-image the colonizer and the colonized people as beneficiaries of a shared experience. This deviation from traditional paradigms used to explain the era, has permitted an alternative perspective on colonialism.

This study focuses on the early events that transpired with the initiation and propagation of Protestantism as a belief system, by various religious missionary groups during the early stages of American colonial rule; how the Protestants in the United States viewed the colonial acquisition of the archipelago; and why they were welcomed by those who first came in contact with them. The intention is to understand the reasons for the coming of Protestantism to the Philippines; and to give a picture of the role and influence of early religious programs on the American colonial experience at its onset. This will then make possible a description of the Filipino response to Protestantism as a result of cross-cultural exchanges that have led to cultural enrichment.