The Pre-colonial Filipino Baptism Formula

Luis Bienvenido Foronda
2 min readJun 27, 2021

This was published in OnlyFacts on March 3, 2021

Time for another pre-colonial fun fact, uwu!

In a 1965 study, eminent Ilocano historians Marcelino and Fr. Juan A. Foronda presented a landmark study: The Iloko Baptismal Formula: Its Historical Genesis and Theological Implications (1965) providing proof that pre-colonial Filipinos had known baptism before the Spanish came in the 16th century.

The Foronda brothers discovered that the oldest native translation of the Iloko baptismal formula was in Lopez’s 1895 Grammatica Ilocana which states:

“BUNIAGANKA ITI NAGAN TI AMA KEN TI ANAK KEN TI ESPIRITU SANTO.” [Literally, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.]
They went to the heart of the matter, seeking the oldest copy of the Iloko translation of the Doctrina Christiana available locally, published in 1620.

Reading the oldest source of Christianity in the Philippines, they described: “We thumbed through the pages which contained the baptismal formula. To our surprise, the baptismal formula or the Iloko translation of the Latin ‘Ego the Baptizo’ was blotted out and buggoanca was handwritten in ink at the left margin of the page. The blotted-out word, however, can still be deciphered. It says buniagan cat.”

BUNYAGANKA would then literally translate into “I baptize thee.”
The Foronda brothers found the significance of the word BUNIAG in letters by Ferdinand Blumentritt, who calls it a kind of rebaptism. A manifestation of the cult dedicated to BUNI, a god which Ilocano farmers rebaptized their children if they were in danger.

Blumentritt elaborated that buniag would have come from Buni, the Iloko name of the Supreme God in ancient times. They also quoted the eminent Iloko historian and Father of Philippine Folklore, Isabelo de los Reyes’ El-Folk-Lore Filipino, the custom of bathing newly born children in cold water. A sort of first bath implicating a baptism ceremony.



Foronda, M.A., Juan A. Foronda, The Iloko Baptismal Formula: Its Historical Genesis and Theological Implications (Manila: United Publishing): 1–19. See

Foronda, M.A., Juan A. Foronda, Samtoy: Essays on Iloko History and Culture (Manila: United Publishing): 66–80.