Ancient animist beliefs and practices ruled over the Philippine archipelago and were as diverse as the island themselves, which were scattered with several different prehistoric cultures through the waves of nomadic societies ventured into new territories. 

Beliefs in numerous deities, spirits, both good and bad, ancestor worship, the magic power of amulets, sexual totems, mummification, sacrifices, astrology, adherence to omens, oracles and magic were all widely present across the islands, in what was a rich tapestry of indigenous culture prior to the arrival of organised unified religion. 

Many of these ancient beliefs still persist in many of the tribal societies of the Philippines, and even remain within the mainstream of modern culture. The divinatory Dado Dice, used originally in predictive rituals survive as gambling devices, much in the same way that modern playing cards have their roots in the tarot pack. 

Magic practices, known as Kulam, which bear similarities to voodoo, are still practiced on the island of Siquijor, the Talalora region of Samar, and on the southernmost tip of Luzon at Sorsogon. Likewise in the Cordillera today many ancient belief systems prevail, and many more are imbedded, even today, within the practices of both Christianity and Islam throughout the country. 

Many of the early societies in the Philippines were matriarchal, a heritage which still deeply colours Filipino culture today, where despite the later instilling of Spanish macho tendencies, society still greatly reveres womankind, and indeed, many of the modern country’s main political and business leaders are women. 

Some of these early communities are known to have been quite organised, establishing unified city states and trading with other cultures in Asia from at least the third century AD, through which the early influence of the Hindu and Buddhist cultural wave that spread across most of Southeast Asia began to penetrate the iconography of the local people. 

Many surrounding Empires traded with the indigenous Filipino peoples and a major influence upon the islands was the rise of the Srivajayan and succeeding Majapahit empires from Java which spread widely across what are now Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and brought Hindu and Buddhist traditions a more established circulation. 

Following the collapse of Majapahit, the Islamic ascendency of Indonesia and Malaysia, which characterises these countries today, spread into the vacuum of power, and had penetrated the western Philippines beyond the former boundaries of Majapahit into the Luzon Kingdom of Tondo, which by that time had also come under considerable Chinese influence, and by the fifteenth century was Islamised. 

In the east and much of the central archipelago however, the Hindu-Buddhist rulers strongly resisted the onslaught of Islamic forces.  

The period of Islamic rule would be brief, however, as the Catholic forces of Spain arrived with Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and gradually subsumed virtually the entire archipelago in the name of Christianity, with the notable exception of areas of western Mindanao and the Sulu islands, which remain to this day a separatist Islamic stronghold. 

The majority of Muslims follow the Sunni Islam tradition, though there are also small Shiite and Ahmadiyya minorities present. Persistent Islamic agitation against the Christian majority, which in modern times has turned to terrorist methodology, has secured an Autonomous Islamic region in western Mindanao, where the majority of Muslims now live.

Following the Spanish occupation, after initial resistance was suppressed, the Filipinos have largely embraced Catholicism, and in modern times it fervently upheld by around 80 percent of the population, though considerable vestiges of the original cultures remain interwoven throughout its practice. 

Spanish domination of the Philippines came to an end during the Spanish-American War of the distant shores of the Caribbean Sea, which spilled over into the Spanish Pacific territories, in which the Americans emerged as victors, having captured most of the Philippines and finally occupying Manilla in 1899. 

Under the American regime, which was initially fiercely resisted by Filipinos, many other strains of Christianity, largely of the evangelical protestant dominations, began to be disseminated throughout the Philippines, and many of these continue today as minority followings, as well as movements such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Korean Unification church of Sun Myung Moon, amongst many others. Other recently introduced minorities include the Baha’i faith. There is also a small Jewish Community in the Philippines. 

Although considerable elements of Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism still survive from the early cultures, these forms of worship are now most widely practiced by the Indian emigre communities, while other forms of Buddhism, such as Theravada, and Mahayana are followed by ethnic Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese nationals. Taoism and Chinese Folk religions also have a presence among these communities. 

Under the Philippine constitution, the separation of religion and state, and the freedom of worship are enshrined in law. As elsewhere, where true freethinking is permitted, an increasing number of modern Filipinos are atheist.