Filipino American Religious Heritage Day is appropriately celebrated on the eve of All-Saints Day which is honored by both Catholics and Protestants. On this day in 1617, Martin Luther nailed his “95 Thesis” for reforming the church, generally acknowledged as the start of the Protestant Reformation.

Filipino Americans are among the most religious people in New York City. They really have the Spirit!

10 surprising facts about Filipino American Religion*

1. Surprising fact: Christianity from the Philippines is the earliest occurrence in the historical record of Asian American religion.

In the 16th Century, Filipino sailors aboard the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza (Our Lady of Hope) with the Catholic priest Martin Ignacio de Loyola landed on the California coast, probably at Morro Bay near modern San Luis Obispo.

This year is the celebration of 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines. It commemorates the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines in 1521 when the Magellan expedition made a stopover in the islands.

2. Surprising Filipina, Mary! Filipino Americans have their own tradition of Mary, Mother of Jesus traveling to the Philippines. She is called “Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage,” the Virgin of Antipolo.

Her veneration started in the late 17th century with the arrival of a statue of Mary that physically resembles a Filipina woman! The icon was carved in Mexico out of dark wood and made several trips back and forth until finally settling in the Philippines.

3. Surprising fact: 92% of Filipino Americans identify with a religion!

5. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Filipino Americans identify themselves as Catholic.

6. 21% of Filipino Americans identify themselves as Protestant.

7. Surprising fact:  Filipino Americans are the third-largest Asian American group in the United States!

About one in five (19 percent) Asian Americans have a Filipino background, according to an analysis of the Pew Research Center. There are about 4,211,000 Filipino Americans.

8. NYC surprise! There are about 236,000 Filipino Americans in the NYC area. (Most Filipino Americans are concentrated on the West Coast.)

9. A Filipino American may soon or already be in your family! Did you know that in the 21st Century, a majority of Filipino Americans marry someone from another racial or ethnic group?

10. Surprising results of American colonialism. The American takeover of the Philippines in 1898 lead to freedom of religion and a vast increase in women’s religious groups in the Philippines.

The separation of church and state by the American administration forced the Catholic hierarchy to connect more closely with the Filipino people. The church started ordaining indigenous priests and involving lay leadership, including female Filipinos. Independent Catholicism (the Aglipayan Church) and Protestantism grew quickly.

*Stats come from the U.S. Census, “Asian Americans: A Mosaic of  Faiths 2012,” Pew Research Center, Washington, DC,” and Journey Census of NYC religions.

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