Bicolanos of the Philippines
The Bicol region’s distance from centers of progress has helped keep the Bicolanos locked into traditional beliefs and practices. The vast majority are Roman Catholic, most of whom practice folk religion. Only about one percent of the people are Christians. olanos of the Philippines.
The Bicol region’s distance from centers of progress has helped keep the Bicolanos locked into traditional beliefs and practices. The vast majority are Roman Catholic, most of whom practice folk religion. Only about one percent of the people are Christians.
The Bicolanos are a Malayo-Indonesian people.
The total population of the Bicol region is 5 million.
The Southeast portion of Luzon island is a large peninsula. This region is called Bicol. Six provinces make up this beautiful area.
There are several Bicol languages and many different dialects. They are the languages used most commonly in homes and general life. Most Bicolanos also speak Tagalog. Two other languages, Cebuano and Masbateño, are spoken by many in the region.
Most older Bicolanos have completed elementary school only. They tend to have agricultural jobs. They farm, fish, or sell food products. Some are involved in mining, handicrafts, or one of a variety of industries. Because the region is far from the country’s commercial centers, it cannot compete in many areas of business, and thus has a higher poverty rate than the national average.
Natural disasters also hinder the area’s economic growth. Two active volcanoes erupt on occasion, and many typhoons blow in off the Pacific Ocean every year.
The younger generation is pursuing higher education. There are many colleges in the area, including a very good medical school. But due to the slow rate of development in this area, underemployment is high (40 percent). Many professionals move elsewhere to find work.
Spain targeted the Bicol region early on in its colonization efforts, resulting in one of the country’s oldest Roman Catholic dioceses (in Naga City). Today, the vast majority of Bicolanos are still Catholic. Some are members of one of the many cults active in the area. In five of the region’s six provinces only about one percent of residents are Protestant Christian.
Bicol has suffered from the communist insurgency for over 35 years. Many NPA rebels are known to live, train, and recruit in the region. Also, many leaders of the rightist reform movement hide out in Bicol.
Openness to Christianity
Since 1990 persecution of Christians in the region has slowly decreased. In the early 2000s, a few influential Bicolanos came to faith. In the two leading cities, wealthy and powerful people have never been more open to the gospel. Openness in the rural areas is still largely unknown due to the lack of efforts to reach them.
The Bicolanos have great potential for cross-cultural missions. This is because they learn languages quickly and adapt easily to other cultures. Further, they are used to hardship and a simple lifestyle. Finances is their chief obstacle. Lack of support has prevented some from becoming career missionaries.
Many of the churches pray faithfully for missions. Some of the youth have gone on short-term missions. One young woman, fruit of OMF’s work in Albay, recently became the first to serve long-term overseas.
In Albay province, OMF’s leadership role has ended. Local people now head the ABCCOP work there. Still, we serve them as a nonresident advisor and through training.
OMF leads ABCCOP’s efforts in Sorsogon province. Our goal is to plant a church in each of its four key cities and towns, and then from these, plant churches in its smaller towns and villages. We have started two of these churches. We also provide training for this growing work.
Because the region has many poor people and experiences many natural calamities, we occasionally engage in relief efforts or initiate livelihood projects.