Church History in the Philippines

Christian Church History in the Philippines

5121, Roman Catholicism in the Philippines

In 1521, the Portuguese navigator and explorer Ferdinand Magellan, under Spain’s service (Spanish Expedition), was on a mission to discover the “Spice Islands.” He came across the island of Cebu and met Rajah Humabon.

The Rajah had an ill grandson whose recovery was credited to Magellan. Humabon allowed himself and 800 of his subjects to be baptized in gratitude. After Magellan died, Spain sent Miguel López de Legazpi and introduced Christianity.

Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion in the country and the fifth-largest Christian country globally.

Rise of the Roman Catholic church.

Protestant Reformation and the Great Awakenings

Roman Catholic Priest Martin Luther began to “protest” the teachings of the Pope in 1517. It fuelled a movement known collectively as the “Protestant Reformation.” It shook the Catholic foundation of Europe and gave birth to several protestant denominations.

Out of this movement came the “trans-denominational movement” that introduced what we generally know now as “Evangelism” (public preaching of the gospel) led by “Evangelical Christians.”

Evangelical preachers like George Whitefield began the “spiritual revivals” in Britain and its thirteen colonies between the 1730s and 1740s. America became the beacon of these revivals (or awakening) known as the “Great Awakenings.”


1898, Missionaries in the Philippines

Several Protestant missions from the USA and Europe came to evangelize the Philippines. From 1898 to 1930, these mission agencies made a comity agreement that included Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, to name a few.

Eventually, the agreement became intricate, and a split happened because of differences in personality and cultural tensions.

1900s, Iglesia Evangelica and Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Following Spanish rule, American Christian missionaries established churches and schools in the country. The first wave of American teachers who arrived were mostly ministers who went to many lowland barrios instituting a new public education system. At the same time, some of them exerted influence on the government administration. [Salazar, Severino]

Iglesia Evangelica

God’s deep calling became evident in April 1901 when American missionaries met and formally organized a common name for all Protestant churches—Iglesia Evangelica (Evangelical Church). Their mission was to disciple Filipinos, emphasizing a deeper relationship with Christ as their savior.

Aglipayan church

In August 1902, Gregorio Aglipay, an activist priest from Ilocos Norte, and Isabelo de los Reyes, head of the General Council of the Union, formed the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or later became known as the Aglipayan church.

Aglipay wanted a Filipino church, free from Rome. The movement deposed and arrested Catholic bishops and friars accused of abuse and corruption. They also sequestered their properties, labeled as church properties.

About 25 to 33 percent of the population joined the movement but eventually declined. They are associated with the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.

In 1913, Felix Manalo founded the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) as a “sole religious organization.” Manalo claims he was tasked to restore the “one true church of Jesus.” Like the Roman Catholics, INC assumes there is no salvation outside their church. The rest of the other churches are apostates. [Meimban, Obar]

1921, Government Registration

Nineteen independent denominations were formally registered with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), and important splits occurred among the major groups. It gave birth to smaller denominations.

The unity of the churches was still a goal, and in 1929, the United Brethren, Presbyterian, and Congregational Churches formed the “United Evangelical Church” in the Philippines.

During World War II, the “Evangelical Church of the Philippines,” which combined thirteen denominations, was formed. However, the Methodist, Episcopal, Unida, and other independent churches refused to join.

1949, NCCP

The United Evangelical Church (UEC), the Philippine Federation of Evangelical Churches (PFEC), and the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Cristo formed the Philippine Federation of Christian Churches, now called the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

1965, PCEC

A group of Christian leaders mostly coming from non-denominational and independent Christian churches formed the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches* (PCEC) in 1965.

Today, it is one of the largest Christian groups in the Philippines and is involved in evangelism and politics, among others.

Religious Demographics in 2018

DenominationPercent population out of 106M in 2018
Roman Catholics77.1%
Christians ‘Believers’13.9%
Ethnic Religion3.2%
Agnostics or Atheists1.8%
Source: Joshua Project

Religious Demographics as of 2000

DenominationPercent out of 77M in 2000
Roman Catholic82.9%
Christians ‘Believers 4.5%*
Islam/Muslim 5.0%
Evangelical Protestant2.8%*
Iglesia ni Kristo2.3%*
Aglipayan 2.0%
Agnostics or Atheists1.7%

* Index Mundi
* Christian Believers may refer to ‘Born-again Christians,’ Evangelical Christians, or Believers.

Growth of followers of Jesus

(All Judeo-Christian)
(Born again Christians and non-traditional Catholics)

Christian Believers, Mega-Church Movements from the 1960s to 1990s

This period can be considered the spiritual revival or the “Great Awakening” in the Philippines because of the birth of megachurches, independent of each other but united in one purpose. Given that the Catholic population of the Philippines is more than 80%, statistics give us approximately 95% of Filipinos adhere to the Judeo-Christian faith.

FoundedChurch MovementDenomination InfluenceEst. Members in 2018
1962, Missionaries Vince and Lucy Apostol (Reformed Church in North America) began in Negros Island. Today, it has over 50 congregations.The Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines (CRCP)Presbyterian 5,000
1978, founded by Eddie Villanueva through a Bible Study.Jesus Is Lord Church (JIL)Pentecostal – Evangelical2 Million*
1978, founded by David and Patty Jo Yount.Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF)Conservative Baptists10K
1980, 1980, started by Gerry Holloway through a Bible Study.Word for the World Christian Fellowship (WWCF)Evangelical20K+
1982, founded by Butch Conde through discipleship.Bread of Life Ministries (Bread)Evangelical30K
1984, founded by Peter Tan-Chi through a Bible Study.Christ’s Commission Fellowship* (CCF)Evangelical60K
1984, started by Steve and Deborah Murrell.Victory Christian Fellowship (VCF)Pentecostal – Evangelical30K
1984, founded in 1947 by Frank Porada of the Free Gospel Missionary Society.Church of God World Mission (COG)Pentecostal – Evangelical30K
1985, founded by Eduardo “Ed” Lapiz through a Bible Study.Day by Day Christian Ministries (DBD)Non-denominational30K
1987, originally founded by American missionaries in 1899.Presbyterian Church of the PhilippinesEvangelical15K
1991, American missionaries Paul and Shoddy Chase began missionary work in Samar in 1981. They moved south of Manila and founded Alabang New Life.New LifePentecostal – Evangelical10K
Others Calvinists, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Adventist, and full gospel churches. 1 Million
Others (Non-traditional Catholics)Charismatic groups remain under the Vatican but are considered followers of Jesus. 5 Million
OthersReligious organizations claim to follow the Judeo-Christian Bible “Christians but with questionable doctrines. 2.5 Million

* Membership as of 2017 was 5M, according to JIL founder, but we could not verify actual data. CCF membership steadily rose, with more than 1M followers on Social Media in 2018 from 300,000 in 2016.

Church Umbrella Organizations


Apostolic Catholic Church (ACC)
Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC)
Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP)
Evangelical Methodist Church in the Philippine Islands (IEMELIF)
Philippine Independent Church (PIC)
United Ecumenical Church (UNIDA)
Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP)
The Salvation Army (TSA)
United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)
United Methodist Church of the Philippines (UMC)


* Information not available.
* Please refer to our partial list of Evangelical Christian churches in the Philippines.

Reformed Protestant Churches in the Philippines

Bastion of Truth Reformed Churches (BTRC)
Berean Protestant Reformed Church – Philippines (PRCA)
Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines
Presbyterian Chuch Denominations
Reformed Baptist Association (REBAP Luzon).
– Cubao Reformed Baptist Church
– Grace Baptist Church of Los Baños (Laguna).

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  1. Hello. Would I please be able to get a copy of the above article for personal use only? I am working on my family history. You mention in 1947 Frank Porada went to the Philippines to help. He is my grandfather. I have the original document for my father when he registered in Manilla; he was 10 at the time. My intentions is to include your article in my family history.

    Frank so loved his work there and any information about then and how the church is growing is precious to us. His faith was passed down to all his kids, grand kids, and great grandkids.

    In Christ,


  2. Thank you for your very informative site. May I just make a correction. Pastors Paul and Shoddy Chase, having started as American missionaries to the Philippines in 1981, originally based in Samar, and then Kalibo, Aklan, moved to the south of Manila in 1991 to start Alabang New Life Christian Center. They are not the founders of Lighthouse Christian Community which is located just a few blocks from Alabang New Life Christian Center, which is now simply named New Life. I hope you can make the necessary correction that your information will be more accurate for all the people who visit your site. Appreciate your ministry and God exceedingly bless you!

  3. Thank you for this very informative website. I am one of the children of the late Vince Apostol, and wife, Lucy, the pioneer missionaries of the Christian Reformed World Missions that started the Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines. My parents do not take credit for the founding of the CRCP. They were only instruments of the Lord to start His work through the CRC in the Philippines. I noticed that even in WIKIPEDIA, the # of congregation and church members may not be that accurate anymore. I may not have specific data for these but there might be some CRCP leaders or members of the board of trustees of the denomination who may have. FYI. God bless your ministry!


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