Religion holds a central place in the life of most Filipinos, including Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Protestants, and animists. It is central not as an abstract belief system, but rather as a host of experiences, rituals, ceremonies, and adjurations that provide continuity in life, cohesion in the community, and moral purpose for existence. Religious associations are part of the system of kinship ties, patronclient bonds, and other linkages outside the nuclear family.
Christianity and Islam have been superimposed on ancient traditions and acculturated. The unique religious blends that have resulted, when combined with the strong personal faith of Filipinos, have given rise to numerous and diverse revivalist movements. Generally characterized by millenarian goals, antimodern bias, supernaturalism, and authoritarianism in the person of a charismatic messiah figure, these movements have attracted thousands of Filipinos, especially in areas like Mindanao, which have been subjected to extreme pressure of change over a short period of time. Many have been swept up in these movements, out of a renewed sense of fraternity and community. Like the highly visible examples of flagellation and reenacted crucifixion in the Philippines, these movements may seem to have little in common with organized Christianity or Islam. But in the intensely personalistic Philippine religious context, they have not been aberrations so much as extreme examples of how religion retains its central role in society.
The religious composition of the Philippines remained predominantly Catholic in the late 1980s. In 1989 approximately 82 percent of the population was Roman Catholic; Muslims accounted for only 5 percent. The remaining population was mostly affiliated with other Christian churches, although there were also a small number of Buddhists, Daoists (or Taoists), and tribal animists. Christians were to be found throughout the archipelago. Muslims remained largely in the south and were less integrated than other religious minorities into the mainstream of Philippine culture. Although most Chinese were members of Christian churches, a minority of Chinese worshipped in Daoist or in Buddhist temples, the most spectacular of which was an elaborate Daoist temple on the outskirts of Cebu.