Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A View from the Mountains: Episcopal Missionary Depictions of the Igorot of Northern Luzon, the Philippines, 1903-1916

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A View from the Mountains: Episcopal Missionary Depictions of the Igorot of Northern Luzon, the Philippines, 1903-1916

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

At least since the publication of Edward Said's pioneering and controversial Orientalism in 1978, there has been a great deal of interest among historians in the relationship between Western discourse and Western action in the East.1 Whether or not one agrees with Said's general thesis that Orientalist discourse was "a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient,"2 one still has to ask oneself precisely how the writings, speeches and other discursive materials produced by Westerners about the East were used-or not used-by those Westerners in their dealings with the East. Without taking sides in the Orientalist debate itself, this essay is an exploration into the connection between a particular type of American missionary discourse, namely missionary writings in mission magazines, and missionary theory and practice on the mission field. Specifically, this article examines the ways in which Episcopal missionaries in the Philippines between the years 1903 and 1916(3) portrayed Filipinos of northern Luzon in the Episcopal Church's mission magazine The Spirit of Missions, and argues that Episcopal missionary depictions of Filipinos provided justification for the work undertaken by Episcopal missions and also described in that magazine.

Like almost all American missionaries coming to the Philippines in the first years of the twentieth century, Episcopal missionaries were devoted to the twin causes of evangelism and social amelioration. Simply put, American Protestant missionaries to the Philippines were intent on converting Filipinos-the majority of whom were Roman Catholic-to the missionaries' particular brand of Christianity, through preaching, Bible study and Christian education. The missionaries were also intent on raising the Filipinos' standard of living through modern hygiene, medicine, education and technology, and the inculcation of a Protestant work ethic.4 However, Episcopalians viewed both evangelism and social action in ways rather different from their evangelical fellow Americans. Missionaries of the other Protestant denominations generally saw the purpose of evangelism as leading to a momentous individual conversion experience, and social change as both an aid to and an outgrowth of evangelical conversion. The high church Episcopalians who went to the Philippines, on the other hand, viewed evangelism as a long process which turned a people towards Christian beliefs and a Christian way of life, and social uplift as part and parcel of that Christian nurture and training. Baptism was certainly important for Episcopalians as a rite which marked the entry of the individual into the Church, but other rites such as confirmation and holy communion were just as important, marking the continued conversion of people towards a Christian life, and education of various types provided a vital component to this long process of conversion. Episcopal missionary depictions of Filipinos justified these catholic (and established church) views of evangelism and social work. Episcopal missionaries did not portray Filipinos as sinners hopelessly lost in their sin until they at a certain point in time accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, but rather as people who fully possessed the potential of becoming good Episcopalians through teaching and training in the Christian life.5

THE CONTEXT

The Spint of Missions, May, 1903: Bishop Brent has been on a long tour of investigation through Northern Luzon, chiefly in the Provinces of Benguet and Lepanto. It is a mountainous country, some of the passes being from 6,000 to 7,000 feet high, but it is a region of great natural beauty. The Bishop's journey has been made in primitive fashion, either on foot or in the saddle. In some sections he has found numbers of Filipinos, nominally Roman Catholic, who have been left without clergy for years.. .The population is, however, chiefly Igorrote, in many respects a fine people, with large possibilities, but at the present time entirely savage and heathen, though disposed to be friendly to the American. …

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