The increasing presence of Muslim communities in various urban neighbourhoods in Luzon and the Visayas has altered the religious geography of Philippine urban life, especially during recent decades. In a sense, the formation of Muslim communities in traditionally Christian environments all over the country has encouraged a trend toward diversification, a process that may be either welcomed or resisted by local stakeholders. In the case of Metro Manila, the presence of Moros (traditional Muslims from Mindanao) has contributed to the already diverse social and cultural landscape of the metropolis, which was a focal destination for migrants from several regions of the country. Besides ‘primary communities’ of Muslims established in Quiapo district in Manila and Maharlika Village in Taguig City during the 1960s, various ‘secondary communities’ of Moro settlers have arisen in various localities during the last two decades, accommodating new waves of migrants (Watanabe 2008). Against the background of such increasing Muslim presence in the metropolis,
this chapter looks into the processes pertaining to currently existing religious conviviality in Baclaran district, Parañaque City in Metro Manila. Despite its meagre size, Baclaran district has emerged in recent years as a prominent location for commercial activity and is thus densely populated during regular working hours. It is also the site of one of the largest Catholic shrines in the Philippines, the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (henceforth Perpetual Help shrine): the church building, expanded twice since 1932, has attracted a sizeable number of devotees; unofficial estimates locate devotees to be around 100,000 to 120,000 per week (Hechanova 1998). The weekly pilgrimage that started in 1948 with the inauguration of the ‘Perpetual Novena’ occasioned the economic expansion of surrounding areas around the church, as commercial establishments were started mostly by private business ventures, intending to tap a sizeable market. Since the 1990s, scores of Moros have likewise settled here in order to avail themselves of the opportunities for commerce and trade. Baclaran district has seen a significant increase of Muslim migrants from Mindanao, to the extent that it is one of the places in Metro Manila that has seen the formation of a secondary Muslim community (Watanabe 2007).