In its broadest sense, "Filipino" (fem. "Filipina") refers to citizens of the Republic of the Philippines, a grouping that numbered an estimated 62,380,000 people in 1992. "Filipino," however, is often used in a more restricted sense to refer to Christian Filipinos, who comprise 93 percent of the population. Muslims (4 percent) and others, including animists ("pagans"), comprise the remaining 7 percent. Relations between Christian Filipinos and Muslims (who live mainly on Mindanao Island) are troubled, with the former often viewing the latter as violent, warlike, and backward. Efforts by Muslim political groups to achieve independence continue. Roman Catholicism was introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish in the 1500s and 84 percent of the population is now Roman Catholic, with another 9 percent Protestant. The major Christian ethnic groups, ranked according to their estimated population in 1962-1963, are the Cebuan (6,529,800), Tagalog (5,694,000), Ilocano (3,158,500), Panayan (2,817,300), Bikolan (2,108,800), Samaran (1,488,600), Pampangan (875,500), and the Pangasinan (666,000). Smaller groups include the Ibanag (314,000), Aklan (304,000), Hantik (268,000), Sambal (72,000), Ivantan (11,800), Itawas (11,800), and Isinai (11,500). Bisayan is a generic label that encompasses Cebuans, Panayans, and Samarans.

Many Filipinos distinguish among the different Christian Filipino groups on the basis of stereotypical perceptions of these groups. Thus, Tagalogs are seen as proud, boastful, and talkative; Pampangans as independent, self-centered, and materialistic; Ilocanos as hard-working, aggressive, and with an eye toward the future; and Bisayans as musical, passionate, fun-loving, and brave. Identification with one's group is strong and remains a marker of social identity even in overseas communities.

Christian Filipinos live mainly in coastal lowlands and valleys, primarily on Luzon, Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Panay, and Negros Islands. Most Christian Filipinos on Mindanao are recent immigrants.

Philippine languages are grammatically and phonetically similar to one another and all are classified as Austronesian. Filipino (Pilipino), based on Tagalog, is the national language, with English an important second language. Despite the Spanish influence, the Spanish language was never widely spoken.

The Philippines were probably settled initially through many small migrations from mainland Southeast Asia. Chinese influence was felt early and was substantial. With the exception of Mindanao and other islands in the south, influence from the islands that now form Indonesia was minimal. Spanish contact began with Magellan's visit in 1521 and officially ended in 1898 when Spain ceded control to the United States. In addition to Roman Catholicism, which made the Philippines the only predominantly Roman Catholic nation anywhere in Asia, the Spanish brought the roman alphabet, private ownership of land, the Gregorian calendar, and various New World plants such as cassava, maize, and sweet potatoes. The American period (1898-1946) saw the introduction of national public education, the English language, and agricultural and industrial development. During World War II the country was occupied by Japan, and in 1946 it became an independent republic.

The economy continues to center on agriculture, especially rice, sugarcane, and hemp. Foresting has long been an important industry, and deforestation is now a growing problem. Industrial activity is mainly around Manila and focuses on the processing of agricultural products.

The nuclear family, one's kindred and personal alliances, and godparenthood ( compadrazgo ) are the central features of family life and social relations. Much attention has been paid to the "familial" nature of Filipino society and the emphasis placed on the family as compared to the individual.

Filipino Roman Catholicism is a synthesis of the Roman Catholicism brought by the Spanish and some animistic beliefs of the traditional cultures. Especially important among the latter are beliefs in spirits of the land and ancestors' souls who influence the lives of the living.

See also Tagalog ; Visayan


Hart, Donn V. (1975). "Christian Filipinos." In Ethnic Groups of Insular Southeast Asia, edited by Frank M. LeBar. Volume 2, Philippines and Formosa, 16-22. New Haven: HRAF Press.

Kurian, George T. (1987). "Philippines." In Encyclopedia of the Third World. 3rd ed., 304-307. New York: Facts on File.

Schirmer, Daniel B., and Stephen Rosskamm Shalom, eds. (1987). The Philippines Reader: A History of Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Dictatorship, and Resistance. Boston: South End Press.

Steinberg, David (1982). The Philippines: A Singular and Plural Place. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

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