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Early Baptist Missions to the Philippines
By Henry C. Vedder

The Country

      The cluster of islands called the Philippines constitute a vaster territory than most Americans realize. They extend through sixteen degrees of longitude and nine of latitude a space nearly equal in dimensions, though not in area, to the United States east of the Mississippi. They are a country larger than Great Britain, twice the size of New England and more than equal to the Middle States in all 127,855 square miles. There are more than 7,000 of these islands, though only 166 have an area of one square mile or over. The principal islands are: Luzon, 40,814 square miles, about the size of Ohio; and Mindanao, 36,906, nearly the same as Indiana. Besides these are: Samar, Panay, Palawan, and Mindoro, each approximately equal to Connecticut, while Leyte, Ceba, Bohal, and Masbata are all larger than Rhode Island. The population is 10,000,000, about the same density as in the United States, and far below that of Japan or China. Manila, the capital, is a city of about 250,000, and there are eighteen towns numbering between 20,000 and 40,000. There are three rivers as long as the Hudson, and mountains higher than any in the United States east of the Rockies.

      The climate is tropical, but on the whole very good some even pronounce it delightful. It is a real climate, and not a collection of samples of weather. The temperature is seldom under 70 or over 100, and may be called a perpetual summer. There are two seasons, the wet and the dry, the wet somewhat cooler; even in the

hot, dry season sea-breezes bring cool nights. Nothing can be finer than some of the inland towns and stations, in a table-land 3,000 feet above sea-level.


      The soil is fertile, but the people are far from industrious, and the methods of culture are primitive, so that a vast increase of production is possible. Tropical fruits are grown in abundance: bananas, oranges, mangoes, and many varieties of nuts, including coconuts. The mountain ranges have twenty active volcanos and thirty that are extinct; and they contain much mineral wealth gold, silver, copper, iron, coal are all present. As yet manufactures are slight. Some sugar-mills have been established, and with improved culture and machinery there are great possibilities in the production of sugar. Tobacco is a principal crop and is of a quality second only to that of Cuba; Manila cigars are celebrated for their excellence and cheapness and are exported in considerable quantities. The forests cover 72,000 square miles and abound in fine lumber teak, ebony, mahogany; rubber and camphor trees are native. Rattan, bamboos, various barks, resins, and gums are also produced and exported. Hats woven of native grasses, embroideries, in which the women are skilful [sic], are other important exports. No factories are found outside of Manila and its environs; what is produced elsewhere is handwork.

      The immense increase in recent years of the demand for crude rubber has opened up new prospects of prosperity for the Philippines. The climatic conditions are very favorable to the production of rubber on a large scale; the soil is naturally adapted to the rubber tree, labor is available on a sufficient scale, and at a cost that makes competition with East Indian plantations possible. Several rubber plantations have already been established,

and a government survey indicates that 1,500,000 acres are available for this industry. An Act of Congress, passed July 1, 1902, provides that single homestead entries may be made, not exceeding forty acres; and in addition the Government may sell like tracts to individuals, but not more than 64 such tracts may be sold to any individual or corporation. The object is to prevent great landed estates and secure diffused ownership of the soil. This is an effective obstacle to any scheme for exploitation of the Philippines through immense rubber plantations established by American capital, but need be no bar to mass production by small corporations or enterprising individuals. As matter of fact, most of the world's present rubber supply is produced by small farm units. While the Philippine people realize that the United States needs rubber, and are willing to help us break the English rubber monopoly, they are not willing to surrender their land to economic exploitation. Larger tracts than 2,500 acres (the present limit) might benefit a few capitalists, but would be a political and economic danger to the Filipinos. It does not seem likely that Congress will consent to modify the law, under these circumstances.

      Since the American occupation, banks, post-offices, telegraph and telephone lines, railways, and now radio stations have sprung up with astonishing rapidity. There is an excellent currency, silver and paper, with a gold basis, all modeled on the system of the United States. The unit of value is the peso, worth 50 cents of our money.

      Sparsely inhabited, with their immense possibilities of food and wealth production barely touched, it is no wonder that the Philippines are an object of longing to the overpopulated, half-starving peoples of Asia, all of whom are on the lookout for some refuge to which their teeming millions can flee. This constitutes the real problem of the Philippines. For the United States to abandon its

protectorate would mean their immediate exploitation by Japan and perhaps by China and India.

The People       The natives of the Philippines are not a nation, have never been a nation, are not capable of immediately becoming a nation. They are not one people, but a heterogeneous collection of tribes and races, some of them quite uncivilized yet. This is the result of successive conquests and waves of immigration. Most of the native races are allied with the Malays, but the Negritos are believed to be the aborigines. H. Otley Breyer, professor of anthropology in the University of the Philippines, says that there are 87 distinct ethnographic groups traceable in the present population. He lists 26 different languages and dialects that have been printed, and there are probably So in all. Nowhere in the world, perhaps, is there greater diversity of types and blends of people. They have some of the pronounced characteristics of Malays: they have no cohesion, are always provincial, and so have never developed political or economic unity. They lack persistence, have no initiative, and are deficient in truthfulness and honesty. They are described by our missionaries as very hospitable, affectionate, but indolent and emotional. They are easy to arouse, hard to hold. The great majority are very poor and have learned to be happy with little. Gambling and cock-fighting are universal vices. Perhaps even these general statements should be received with caution, as what may be true of one race might be quite otherwise in case of another.

      The most progressive of these tribes are the Tagalogs, numbering 1,450,000, and the Visayan, 3,219,000. Manuel Quezon, President of the Senate, their leading statesman, is a Tagalog, while Senor Osmena, speaker of the House of Representatives, is Visayan. Next in importance

perhaps are Negritos, still wild and uncivilized, and the Igorots, in many ways reckoned the most backward of all. These and the Moros are Mohammedans. Large numbers, some 500,000, are mestizos, or half-breeds, and these comprise much of the most intelligent and progressive of the population. About 50,000 Chinese and some Japanese should also be mentioned. The Chinese are active in the various kinds of business and are not unpopular, but the Japanese are disliked.

      The houses of the natives and all but the wealthier of all classes, are of bamboo frames, on piles, with thatched roofs of nipa palm, often covered with galvanized iron. The basement is used as a stable, or possibly a store. Furniture is very primitive in these native huts; the inmates sleep on the floor and cook on a flat stone fry, roast, broil, and bake in embers. The food is largely rice and fish, varied with fowls and pigs. There is carabao beef, but it is dry and tough. Vegetables and fruits are plentiful, but not the American sorts. Owing to unbalanced diet and lack of hygiene, dysentery and beri-beri are prevalent and deadly.

      This toll taken by preventable diseases is one of the heaviest taxes the Filipinos have to pay. What could be done for the islands as a whole has already been demonstrated in the Manila district, where malaria, cholera, and dysentery have been practically stamped out, and tuberculosis greatly diminished. In many parts of the islands 20 per cent, of the people suffer from malaria alone, and from one-fifth to one- fourth of the people are unable to work by reason of diseases. Vigorous sanitary and hygienic campaigns, under competent supervisors, are the most pressing need of the. day, for the mass of the people are totally ignorant of both sanitation and hygiene. The schools can do a great work of education in public health.

As might be expected, there is great diversity of languages among the Filipinos. Competent observers declare that there are thirty-four distinct languages spoken, and over 75 dialects, 45 of which are spoken by people enough to deserve a version of the Scriptures. It is further said that twenty of these dialects are spoken by over 27,000 persons, and eleven by more than 100,000 each, while three are the vernacular of at least 1,000,000. Up to 1919 the British and Foreign Bible Society had published the complete Bible in four principal languages and parts of the Gospels in four more. The American Bible Society has three complete Bibles for Filipinos and the Gospels in two more. The difficulties of making such versions are great; for example, the language of the Igorots lacks about half the words needed to translate the New Testament.

      Spanish is still a common medium of communication, but English is rapidly replacing it, and today is spoken by more people than ever knew Spanish. English is taught in all the schools and is the official language, save the proceedings of the Senate and House of Representatives, which are still conducted in Spanish.

      The Spanish conquerors found the Filipinos in three classes: nobles (datos), plebeians (tawos), and slaves. Slavery was abolished by papal edict in 1591, which was confirmed by various royal edicts, but a form of serfdom or peonage took its place. A type of feudalism developed, which however was an advance on Malayan savagery. The Filipino is still feudal by instinct and follows leaders blindly. The social unit is the barrio or village, from a score to several hundred houses.


      Education is free, secular, and coeducational. There are now more than a million pupils enrolled in the public

schools, of which there are 4,500. At first and of necessity manned by American teachers, these have declined from more than a thousand to 350, while 8,000 natives are now employed as teachers. This alone is an index of the progress that the islands are making. A system of normal and industrial schools, as well as agricultural, supplements the elementary schools. A University of the Philippines has been established in Manila and is supported by the Government. It reports 2,698 students in the collegiate department, and 2,020 in other departments. There are also two universities, founded and supported by private gifts: Santo Tomas, begun in 1611 by the Dominican order and still under their control; and a National University. Many private schools of various grades are also maintained, and these are said to have 30,000 pupils.

      A veritable obsession of education seems to have taken hold of the Filipinos. The country has advanced a century in twenty years, and bids fair to become one of the most highly educated nations of the world. It is becoming a youth-controlled nation, full of idealism, intolerant of shams. In 1892, it is said, there were not more than 500 or 600 English-speaking people in Manila; now over 100,000 children are studying English in the schools. One easily believes the assertion that more Filipinos have learned English in 25 years than learned Spanish in 300 years; and the prophecy is quite credible that in another generation the Filipinos will be mainly an English-speaking people.


      The Philippines were ceded to the United States by Spain in a treaty signed April u, 1899. The United States paid Spain $20,000,000, nominally not a purchase, but redemption of the bonded debt of the Philippines previously incurred, which Spain had guaranteed, and secured

[A map showing Baptist Mission Stations in the Philippines.]

by customs. There was great opposition in our country to the acquisition of this territory, and for some time the "antis" kept up an agitation, stimulated by an insurrection of the natives led by Aguinaldo. This ended in 1901, and a new era for the islands began. Great progress along all lines, political, economic, social, has been made in a single generation. The head of the Philippine government has the title of Governor-general, and exercises the executive functions with the help of a cabinet, while legislation is in the hands of a Senate of 24 and a House of Representatives of 93. The islands are divided into 48 provinces, each having its own governor and administrative Board. Each municipality has a presedente, or mayor, and council. All officers are elected by popular vote, save the Governor-general, who is appointed by the President of the United States, and names his cabinet. The laws are administered by a justice of the peace for each municipality, by judges of 26 judicial districts and a supreme court. Each municipality has its police and there is a general Philippine constabulary, and the United States keeps about 13,000 troops, including five Filipino regiments, as additional precautions against disorder.

The Question of Independence

      Aguinaldo's insurrection, begun almost at once after American occupation, had as its avowed object independence and the establishment of a Filipino republic. It was subdued with some difficulty, but a certain element of the Filipinos has never ceased to agitate for independence, and every year since 1907 the Filipino legislature has passed by unanimous vote a resolution demanding immediate and unconditional independence. This native agitation has been seconded by some American residents and visitors, and by a portion of the people of the United

States. By the majority, however, these agitators are believed to be misinformed and misguided, and the agitation itself is believed not to represent the Filipinos as a whole, but to be conducted by a minority of politicians for selfish purposes. The United States is committed to the policy of granting independence to the Filipinos as soon as they appear to be capable of self-government and self-protection, but no sooner. Most Americans are persuaded that to grant independence sooner would be only to invite trouble for the Filipinos and ultimately for ourselves.

      It should be noted that the islands are by no means unanimous in this demand for independence. The Southern group, mainly inhabited by Moros, are decidedly opposed to independence. They are of a different race (Malay) and religion (Mohammedan) from the rest of the Filipinos, and mutual distrust prevails, not to say hatred. In the past, the Moros have been much persecuted by the "Christian" Filipinos, and for their own security greatly prefer continuance of the present status. If independence is granted to the northern portion of the islands, they demand separate organization under a protectorate by the United States. A measure known as the Bacon bill is pending in Congress, which aims to grant this desire of the Moros for separate treatment.

Colonel Thompson's Mission

      What may prove to be a decisive event in the settlement of relations with the Philippines was the sending of Colonel Carmi A. Thompson, of Ohio, as a personal representative of President Coolidge, to make a comprehensive survey of conditions in the islands. He was received with all honors and given every facility for investigation. His report was made public in the closing weeks of 1926, and is a most important document. As was

expected, he strongly emphasizes the economic possibilities of the country. He found Mindanao producing high-grade coffee, and promising to grow enough to break the Brazilian monopoly. Immense deposits of iron ore and coal were shown him, though further expert surveys are necessary to establish fully their extent and value. Hemp production, in which the Philippines now lead the world, is capable of indefinite expansion. There is much undeveloped water-power, especially in Mindanao. An experimental grove of camphor trees shows that the is- lands can be made to produce large quantities of camphor, an industry of which Japan now has a practical monopoly. The yield of sugar could easily be increased fourfold. Enough kapok could be grown to stuff every mattress in the United States.

      The decisive argument against Filipino independence is that, with all this possibility of wealth, the islands have not yet so developed their possibilities as to be capable of maintaining independence. Potentially one of the richest regions of the world, it is yet one of the poorest. Colonel Thompson gives adequate recognition of this basic and undeniable fact; and accordingly he does not recommend immediate independence. But he does strongly recommend better cooperation between the United States and the insular Legislature; and while highly commending the administrative ability of General Wood, he believes it would be better to transfer the administration of the islands from the War Department to a Bureau to be created for all insular administration. No change in the Jones Acts of 1916 should be made, and he does not favor segregation of the southern group to please the Moros. He recommends modification of the land laws, but by the Filipinos themselves through their Legislature, rather than by Congress.

      In addition to the decisive reason mentioned above,

there are many economic and political reasons why immediate independence would be most inexpedient for the Filipinos. As an American protectorate, they enjoy free trade with the United States, and have the same protection against foreign competition that the American people have. As a result, Filipinos have increased and diversified their industries and commerce more than ten-fold, wages have more than trebled, and the life of the people has been improved in a thousand ways. The United States expends annually $12,000,000 in the maintenance of its army and navy in the Philippines, all of which inures to the advantage of the people. Trade with the United States is vital to the Filipino people, who sell only 30 per cent, of their products to foreign nations. Separation would mean loss of the greater portion of what has been thus gained; it would cause the decay of Filipino industries and a check to their economic prosperity from which they would be decades in recovering, if they recovered at all.

Roman Catholics in the Philippines

      There was no Spanish conquest of the Philippines; there is no Cortez or Pizarro in its history. A series of settlements peacefully made rather, and a quiet extension of Spanish authority, until it nominallly [sic] covered the entire group of islands. Missionaries soon followed this occupation, and as a result nine-tenths of Filipinos, of whatever race, are nominally Christian. In 1898 there were 6,559,998 inscribed in parish registers, and now 7,751,176 are claimed. The Spanish friars were these first missionaries, and their orders became dominant, especially Dominicans and Franciscans. They had acquired title before the American occupation to 400,000 acres of the best lands, of which 250,000 were near Manila. They were paid over $7,000,000 to relinquish these titles. The

friars had the repute of being very immoral, as well as grasping: they were directly connected with the Spanish government and its police, which they really directed, and in consequence became very unpopular. Before the war between Spain and the United States there had been several attempts at revolution, directed especially against the friars. Though many members of these orders departed for Spain after the American occupation, the feel- ing against them and their church did not subside, and an independent Catholic Church was established in 1901, under the lead of Gregario Aglipay. He was elected archbishop by his followers and has since consecrated bishops and ordained priests and organized a large Church, which claims 1,413,506 followers. The Roman Catholic Church has lost fully half of the Filipinos, but is now making great efforts to recoup these losses, mainly through parochial schools. As in the United States, the Roman Church is very hostile to the public schools.

Presbyterian Missions

      Admiral Dewey entered Manila Bay on the night of April 30, 1898, and fought his memorable battle with the Spanish fleet the following morning.1 When the news of his victory reached the United States the people rejoiced greatly, but with a bewilderment aptly expressed by Mr. Dooley, who said his countrymen did not know whether the Philippines were islands or a breakfast food. In that same month of May, the Presbyterian General Assembly voted a mission to the islands. They were fortunately able to transfer a Spanish-speaking missionary from Brazil, Rev. James B. Rodgers, who began the first
1 The other principal events in the acquisition of the Philippines were: January 12, 1898, Aguinaldo issues proclamation of Philippine independence; August 13, Manila captured by American troops; February 4, 1899, Insurrection of Filipinos; February 6, Treaty of Paris ratified by U. S. Senate; March, 1901, Aguinaldo captured; July 4, civil government established by authority of the United States.

Protestant mission in Manila the following April. He found the people very receptive; they received the Bible and the gospel gladly. Other workers followed, and in seven years later the Presbyterian mission had 4,127 communicants. Eight other stations were opened, in which five dialects are spoken, and the total membership has now grown to more than 16,000. A conference of missionary Boards in the summer of 1898 agreed on a division of fields, in consequence of which the Presbyterian missions have been confined to the southern part of Luzon, while the Methodists have occupied the northern part. A medical mission in Panay is also an important part of the Presbyterian work. Their Silliman Institute, at Dumaguete, in the island of Negros, was named for a layman of Cohoes, N. Y., who gave $20,000 to found it. It has a fine, salubrious location, accessible to a large population, with no competing schools. Practically every province is represented among its students. Industrial features have been developed, a college farm, sawmills, etc. A mission hospital has been added, and altogether this is one of the greatest Protestant missions in the world.

Other Denominations

      While Presbyterians were first, other evangelical bodies were not far behind. American Christians were practically a unit in recognizing their responsibilities to the Filipino people, whose destiny had in so strange a manner become united with our own. The Methodist Episcopal missions were begun in 1900, and they have established the largest Protestant congregation in Manila, besides numerous stations among the natives of northern Luzon. By 1903 they had 5,000 members and probationers.

      The Protestant Episcopal Church began a mission in Manila in 1900. The following year Rev. Charles E.

Brent, of Boston, was elected missionary bishop of the Philippines, and has succeeded in procuring the erection of the cathedral of St. Mary and St. John, at a cost of $100,000, which is said to be the finest Episcopal church of the Orient. A fine social program has been undertaken by this Church schools, hospitals, and dispensary in Manila, another hospital at Zamboanza, a training-school for nurses at Manila, and an orphanage. Over 90 social workers are employed, largely Filipinos.

      The United Brethren began a mission in 1901 among the Ilocanos, Igorots, and other backward tribes.

      The Disciples opened their first mission in 1901, and since 1923 have taken as their special field the northern part of Mindoro. They are said to be outstripping others in building up an indigenous church. They have established three hospitals and as many concrete dormitories, and are emphasizing social service.

      The ABCFM began work in southern Mindanao in 1902, where they established a hospital in 1908.

Other Agencies

      The Y M C A was early in the field; its representatives were sent out in 1898 with army transports, and their work has been largely among soldiers. Buildings were erected at the chief posts, well equipped for social purposes. Miss Helen M. Gould largely financed this work for some years.

      The two great Bible Societies have had agents in the field, circulating their various versions for Filipinos. A version in Visayan has also been published by the Iloilo press, translating baptize correctly.

The Baptist Mission

      This was begun by Rev. Eric Lund, who had been a missionary in Spain. When he landed at Iloilo, in the

island of Panay, May 3, 1900, he found a field white for harvest. The people were more than ready to listen to the gospel. Not long after he began preaching in the market-place at Jaro, a committee from the interior brought a statement signed by nearly 8,000 persons, to the effect that they wished to abandon the Roman Church and become Protestants. A church was organized at Jaro. Not long after a handsome stone house was built at Capiz, at a cost of $3,000, mostly given by members. Villages would sometimes build a bamboo chapel in anticipation of a missionary's visit.

      One of the best achievements of the mission has been the school at Jaro, at first an industrial school in which the boys mainly supported themselves while at study. This was opened in 1905, and 70 boys applied for ad- mission the first day, the number soon increasing to 100. A farm, several mechanical trades, and business courses supplemented the more cultural studies. The Bible was made a text-book and daily study, and a School Republic solved the problem of discipline. This school has grown into the Central Filipino College, the only institution of the kind in Panay, and recognized by the Government as one of the best colleges of junior grade in the islands. A dormitory has been erected there on the ample campus, but larger housing arrangements for students are greatly needed, and some of the existing buildings are old and ill-adapted to their uses. With adequate equipment, this will be a great asset of the mission.

      A Bible school at Iloilo is another educational center of importance. It has a roomy compound, with nine buildings of various kinds and sizes: including a hostel for girls, of whom there are 50 in attendance, and Doane Hall for boys, which is a center of activities for the Government high school near-by.

      Panay is an island of 4,708 square miles area. By the

"comity" arrangements, Baptists have also become responsible for missionary work in Samar (5,090) and Negros (4,708). What we have done is equivalent to undertaking to evangelize two Connecticuts and one New Jersey. Little or nothing has yet been done in Samar, but a successful work has been begun at Bacalod in Negros, where a church was organized in 1903, and 1,233 baptisms reported in 1925. A school for boys is located here, which has become the center of a strong body of young people.

      Altogether, there are now over 100 churches in our Philippine missions, with upwards of 6,000 members. Our success has already been such as to create new problems of leadership and training.

Medical Work

      As elsewhere, medical work has gone hand-in-hand with evangelism, and is the more necessary because of the dearth of qualified native physicians. Two excellent hospitals are maintained, one at Capiz, the other at Iloilo. The latter was for a time supported in part by Presbyterians but has been left entirely for the Baptist mission to carry on. Here Dr. R. C. Thomas is in charge, with Dr. Lorenzo Bowers as native assistant. He is a graduate in arts of Valparaiso University (Indiana), and in medicine of the University of Cincinnati. These two hospitals treat over 6,500 patients each year and are doing an incalculable amount of good.

Medical Work

      As elsewhere, medical work has gone hand-in-hand with evangelism, and is the more necessary because of the dearth of qualified native physicians. Two excellent hospitals are maintained, one at Capiz, the other at Iloilo. The latter was for a time supported in part by Presbyterians but has been left entirely for the Baptist mission to carry on. Here Dr. R. C. Thomas is in charge, with Dr. Lorenzo Bowers as native assistant. He is a graduate in arts of Valparaiso University (Indiana), and in medicine of the University of Cincinnati. These two hospitals treat over 6,500 patients each year and are doing an incalculable amount of good.

Future Prospects

      The efforts at unity and cooperation were undertaken so early in Philippine missions that there has been unusual harmony and unusual avoidance of overlapping and confusion. Bishop Brent, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, declined formal relations with other bodies,

because of fundamental differences of policy, but promised to encourage friendly relations and has in fact abstained from entering previously occupied fields. Some steps toward unity have been taken. A Presbyterian and a Methodist church in Manila formed a Union Church in 1914, but this example has not been widely followed.

      Future missionary progress among the Filipinos promises to be proportionate to the native ministry that can be trained as thoroughly as American missionaries. The only school to give such training thus far is the Union Theological Seminary at Manila, constituted of five previously existing schools; Presbyterian (1904), Methodist (1907), United Brethren (1911), Disciples (1913), and Congregationalists (1914). All five denominations contribute to its support and are represented in its teaching force. Yet it has very few students, and the Christian ministry does not seem to appeal as a career to Filipino youth, even those who are professed Christians and engaged in studies. In 1919 the trustees of this Seminary established a high school, and the following year a junior college, which it was hoped would become "feeders" of the Seminary, but the hope, has not been fully justified as yet.

      The various "training-schools," of which our Baptist station at Iloilo has one, and many others are maintained by the various denominations, are doing a valuable work, even an indispensable; but they do not and cannot furnish the high type of native minister that is demanded for the successful prosecution of missionary work among the Filipinos.


[From Henry C. Vedder, A Short History of Baptist Missions, chapter XXII, Judson Press, 1927, pp. 282-298. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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