Orthodoxy in the Philippines
This article seeks to be a clearinghouse of information and links regarding the history and state of Orthodox Christianity in the Philippines.
The current Orthodox presence in the Philippines is minimal. However, early in the 20th century a small Russian parish, exclusively for Russian nationals, once existed in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. The presence of this Russian parish ceased to exist after the Second World War. Another Orthodox parish under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was founded in Manila during the early 1990s.
The beginnings of Christianity in the PhilippinesRoman Catholic church to establish itself in the Philippines. The Archbishop of Manila served as both representative of the Spanish Inquisition and, during the absence of the governor-general, the Spanish Crown.
After fighting a bloody revolution against Spain, the Philippines then fought another war for its independence against the United States. However, the Philippines was annexed by the United States in 1898 and remained a colony until 1946. Religious tolerance was then instituted. The new American governor-generals then encouraged the spread of the Episcopal Church through government donations of land.
Orthodoxy in the Philippines
There are a number of accounts about the history of Orthodoxy in the Philippines.
It appears that the first Orthodox Christians on the islands were Syrian and Lebanese merchants and sailors, who arrived in Manila after Manila was opened to outside trade. The first recorded Orthodox Christians in the Philippines were Syrian and Lebanese sailors in 1802 according to the Syrian Consulate in Manila. Many of the Lebanese sailors married and their families still reside in the Philippines and have become Filipino citizens, including the owners of a famous pizza parlor in Manila. The oldest Orthodox Christian in the Philippines, a Lebanese by the last name of Assad, was born around 1904 and is still alive.
Around the beginning of the twentieth century, Greek sailors settled in Legaspi city on the island of Luzon about a century ago. Descendants of these Greek Orthodox Christian sailors now number no more than 10 families, who have kept their Greek surnames and many of whom have become distinguished public figures and intellectuals in the Philippines. They do not, however, speak Greek.An influx of Russian emigrees fleeing the Soviet regime occured during the American colonial regime. In 1935, a Russian parish was established in Manila, and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia appointed Father Mikhail Yerokhin as vicar. The Episcopal Church then permitted Fr. Mikhail to use the north transept of their cathedral for worship. In 1937, the first Orthodox church was built and was named after the Iberian Icon of the Mother of God. This also became the first Orthodox altar in the Philippines. Later, both the Episcopal Cathedral and the Russian Orthodox church in Manila were destroyed during the Second World War.
St. John of Shanghai and San Franciso
In 1949, 5,500 Russian Orthodox from China, including then-Archbishop John Maximovitch, were relocated to Tubabao in the south central Philippines by the International Refugee Organization and with the permission of the newly independent Republic of the Philippines. Abp. John Maximovitch then established a wooden church, orphanage, and other buildings in Tubabao exclusively for the Russian refugees.
Tubabao, however, was (and still is) an underdeveloped island which is humid, prone to typhoons, and at times inaccessible due to the ocean conditions. When a Russian commented on their fear that a typhoon would destroy their camp to local Filipinos, they replied that there was nothing to worry about because “your holy man blesses your camp from four directions every night.” There were no typhoons or floods while Abp. John was there.
Arbp. John Maximovitch did not preach the Orthodox faith to the native inhabitants of the Philippine islands. No Filipino was baptized, chrismated, ordained and consecrated during his stay in the Philippines.
Through the persistent lobbying of Abp. John to the U.S. Congress, the refugees were allowed to settle in the United States and Australia beginning in 1951.
Reception of the first Filipino converts to Orthodoxy
In 1992, a Filipino hieromonk, Fr. Vincentius Escarcha (a former Benedictine Abbot and a Roman Catholic priest for more than 20 years in Bajada, Cataingan, Masbate island), together with four nuns and faithful members of his community, were received into the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Dionysios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Zealand and assisted by Bishop Sotirios of Zelon.
On January 19, 1994, Metropolitan Dionysius, assisted by Bishop Sotirios, received by Holy Chrismation several Filipino Christians in Manila.
In 2004, the Theotokos Orthodox Church in Bajada, Masbate was consecrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong Kong and South East Asia. At present, the nuns of the Theotokos Orthodox Monastery in Bajada run a kindergarten.
Orthodoxy in the Philippines Today
There are some groups today in the Philippines that claim to be Eastern Orthodox; however, they all lack apostolic succession and do not adhere to the traditions and canons of the canonical Orthodox Church.
One of the first Greek Orthodox to arrive in the Philippines was Alexandros Athos Adamopoulos, who came to Legaspi city in 1928. Together with his brother and cousin he co-founded Adamson University in 1932. The university was and is noted for its curriculum directed towards the needs of the Philippines in the areas of science, chemical and industrial engineering. Today Adamson University has attained recognition as on of the leading institutions for graduate education, law, arts, sciences, chemistry, computer education, engineering, commerce and architechture. The university has a student population of over 22,000.
Alexandros Adamopoulos (Alexander A. Adamson) was appointed in 1942 by the Greek government to take charge of Greek interests in the Philippines. He was later promoted to the rank of Consul General of Greece.
In 1989 Alexander Adamson saw the need to establish the first true Greek Orthodox church in the Philippines and thus established the Hellenic Orthodox Foundation Inc. Although he died in 1993 before the church was completed, the Orthodox Cathedral was finished in 1996 and is constructed in true Byzantine style, with all the interior furnishings imported from Greece, and is home to approximately 200 Orthodox in Metro Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. This cathedral was consecrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch on March 5, 2000.
At present there are three canonically ordained Filipino Orthodox priests in the Philippines. The Divine Liturgy and other Orthodox worship services are said in English and in the Filipino vernacular. The only true Orthodox parish in Manila is under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and is spiritually administered by an ecclesiastical vicar from Greece.
- History of the First Filipino Orthodox Community in the Philippines by Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis
- Major Events of Orthodoxy in the Philippines
- The Annunciation of the Theotokos Cathedral in Manila
- Life of St. John Maximovitch
- Greeks in the Philippines and their contributions to the Filipinos
- A priest's description of missionary work in the Philippines
- The Greek Community in the Philippines
- The Theotokos Orthodox Church & Monastery in Masbate
- Orthodox Patriarch Visits Fledgling Local Orthodox Church
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