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Liberation Theology, Filipino and Filipino American, Postcolonialism, Spirituality, Community


This paper aims to serve as an introduction to what the author considers a staple but often overlooked demographic in the pews of Catholic Churches in the United States: Filipinos and Filipino Americans. We begin with a brief overview of Filipino indigenous traditions, Spain’s colonization of the Philippines, and migration trends from the Philippines to the United States. We then explore how Filipino Catholics emerged from intimate devotional gatherings in households and hidden corners of their churches to assert their communities’ needs through parish leadership and civic engagement. In the public forum and thousands of miles from the Philippines, Filipinos have been able to keep their cultural heritage alive through their children and grandchildren while sharing it with those outside of their ethnic community. Woven throughout this narrative are definitions of Filipino cultural values, such as bahala na (“leave it to God”) and utang na loob (reciprocity). Drawing upon a mix of sociological, historical, and theological sources, this paper is inspired by liberation theology and specifically Albert J. Raboteau’s essay “Relating Race and Religion,” which examines the ways in which enslaved African Americans challenged white oppression through the lens of religion. Citing various communities from across the U.S. as well as examples from the author’s own life, this paper ultimately seeks to present Filipino spiritual life as reclamation of a history intrinsically fraught with colonialism and forced assimilation.