Buddhism in the Philippines: Wikis


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The Main Altar of a Buddhist Temple in Masangkay Street, Tondo, Manila.

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is the historical center of Vajrayana Buddhism in Southeast Asia, and not of Theravada Buddhism

Buddhism, specifically Vajrayana, gained a foothold in the Philippines with the rise of the Indianized Buddhist Srivijaya Empire centered in Sumatra in the 7th century. Archaeological finds in the Philippines include a number of Buddhist images common to Vajrayana iconography that dates back to this period. These include a number of Padmapani images and the Golden Tara found in 1917 at Esperanza, Agusan.[1]




Pre-Colonial Period

In the 9th century, Butuan (in Mindanao, southern Philippines) and Ma-i (Mindoro, central Philippines) began extensive trading with the kingdom of Champa (now southern Vietnam), an Indianized state then undergoing a period of strong Buddhist influence.

In 1001 AD, the Buddhist ruler of Bhutan (P’u-tuan in the Sung Dynasty records), Sari Bata Shaja, made the first tributary mission to China and this was followed by the rulers of Basilan (in southern Philippines) and the Luzon Empire more than two hundred years later, and by Mindoro, Sulu and Pangasinan (northern Philippines) four hundred years later. However, according to the Sung Shih (宋史), the official History of the Sung Dynasty, Butuan made regular tributary missions to China since 1001 AD, and that it rulers usually arrived at the same time as the rulers of Tibet, Champa (Southern Vietnam), and the Mongols.

Spanish colonial Period

With the advent of Spanish colonialism via Mexico in the 16th century, the Philippines became a closed colony and cultural contacts with other Southeast Asian countries were closed. In 1481, the Spanish Inquisition commenced with the permission of Pope Sixtus IV and all non-Catholics within the Spanish empire were to be expelled or to be “put to the question” (tortured until they renounced their previous faith). With the refounding of Manila in 1571, the Philippines became subject to Spanish law and the Archbishop of New Galicia (Mexico) became the Grand Inquisitor of the Faithful in Mexico and the Philippines. In 1595, the newly appointed Archbishop of Manila became the Inquisitor-General of the Spanish East Indies (the Philippines, Guam, and Micronesia) and until 1898, the Spanish Inquisition was active against Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. As was the case in Latin America and Africa, forced conversions were not uncommon and any attempt not to submit to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church was seen as both rebellion against the Pope and sedition against the Spanish King, which was punishable by death.

Buddhist practices, festivals and iconography had to be converted and adopted to Catholicism if they were to survive Spanish persecution. A good example of this was is the saniculas biscuit of Pampanga that has its roots in Buddhism. Syncretism (the blending indigenous religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism and indigenous folk religions) became necessary. This can be seen instantly with statues of the Virgin Mary, including the depiction of the halo, hand poses, and rainbow-arches, look almost identical to statues of Tara especially in Binondo and other areas. In time, Buddhism seemed to have virtually disappeared during the 400 years of Spanish rule.

American Colonial Period

With Revolution of 1896 against Spain and later with the coming of the American colonial regime in 1898, religious freedom was instituted. Mahayana and Zen Buddhist temples began to be built in the 1920s and 30s. Davao, due to the large number of Japanese residents, and Cebu, due to the large number of Chinese settlers had the largest Buddhist populations in the Philippines. After World War II, most Japanese were expatriated to Japan and the Chinese and Chinese-Filipinos became the predominant Buddhist ethnic group. In the 1960s, Vietnamese refugees arrived and established a temple in Palawan. At the same time, Japanese Buddhist temples and organizations began to re-emerge such as Sokka Gakkai International.

Buddhism Today

Shingon Buddhist Service at the Heiwa Kannon Shrine in Clark Field, Pampanga, October 2003

Today, Buddhists account for about 1-3% of the Philippine population. Currently, only the Mahayana and Zen are present in the Philippines. Theravada Buddhism is now only confined to nationals from Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar, as well as Cambodia and Laos.

Linguistic Influences

However, the linguistic influence left its most lasting marks on every Philippine language throughout the archipelago with the following Buddhist and Hindu concepts directly from the original Sanskrit. About 25% of the words in many Philippine languages are Sanskrit terms:

Influences in Tagalog

  • budhi "conscience" from Sanskrit bodhi
  • dukha "one who suffers" from Sanskrit dukkha
  • guro "teacher" from Sanskrit guru
  • sampalataya "faith" from Sanskrit sampratyaya
  • mukha "face" from Sanskrit mukha
  • laho "eclipse" from Sanskrit rahu
  • maharlika "noble" from Sanskrit mahardikka

Influences in Kapampangan

Kneelers at a Buddhist Temple in Masangkay Street, Tondo, Manila.
  • kalma "fate" from Sanskrit karma
  • damla "divine law" from Sanskrit dharma
  • mantala "magic formulas" from Sanskrit mantra
  • upaya "power" from Sanskrit upaya
  • lupa "face" from Sanskrit rupa
  • sabla "every" from Sanskrit sarva
  • lawu "eclipse" from Sanskrit rahu
  • galura "giant eagle" (a surname) from Sanskrit garuda
  • laksina "south (a surname)" from Sanskrit dakshin
  • laksamana "admiral (a surname)" from Sanskrit lakshmana

Influences in Tausug

  • suarga "heaven"
  • neraka "hell"
  • agama "religion"

Sanskrit and Sanskrit-derived words common to most Philippine languages

  • sutla "silk" from Sanskrit sutra
  • kapas "cotton" from Sanskrit kerpas
  • naga "dragon or serpent" from Sanskrit naga

See also


  1. ^ Agusan-Surigao Historical Archive

Almario, Virgilio S. ed. 2001. UP Diksiyonaryong Filipino. Pasig City.

Ereccion del Pueblos-Bulacan, 1764-1890. Paper creating the barrios Casay, Lawang, Tigbi and Bayabas into new town named Norzagaray, apart from Angat. Bundle no. 45, Legajo no. 129.

Francisco, Juan R. 1995. “Tenth Century Trade/Settlement Area In South East Asia: Epigraphic and Language Evidence in the Philippines,” National Museum Papers: Vol. 4, No.2:10-35.

Jocano, Landa F. 1998. Filipino Prehistory. Quezon City.

Kuang-Jen Chang, “A Comparative study of trade ceramics as grave goods in Pila, Laguna and Calatagan, Batangas, SW Luzon, the Philippines,” presented at Congres International, European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, 11th International Conference, Bougon, France, 2006.

Postma, Antoon. 1992. “The Laguna Copperplate Inscription,” Philippine Studies 40:183-203.

Scott, William Henry, PreHispanic Source Materials (For the Study of Philippine History), New Day Press, Quezon City, 1984.

Tiongson, Jaime F. The Laguna Copperplate Inscription and the Route to Paracale in “Heritage and Vigilance: The Pila Historical Society Foundation Inc. Programs for the Study and Preservation of National Historical Landmarks and Treasures,” presented at Seminar on Philippine Town and Cities: Reflections of the Past, Lessons for the Future, Pasig City, 2006.

Tiongson, Jaime F. 2004. The Paracale Gold Route. Unpublished Manuscript. Cited in Santiago, Luciano P.R. 2005. “Pomp, Pageantry and Gold: The Eight Spanish Villas in the Philippines (1565-1887),” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society: 33:57-75.

Valdes, Cynthia O. “Archaeology in the Philippines, the National Museum and an Emergent Filipino Nation,” Wilhelm G. Solheim II Foundation for Philippine Archaeology, Inc. 25 Feb 2004.

External links


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