The one thing about the Philippines is the fact that the Archipelago allows for multiple ethnic groups and subcultures to grow and develop their own cultures, languages and belief systems. A quick scan of the various ethnic groups from the Northern Luzon down to Southern Mindanao shows a huge variety of different beliefs, with groups often having different pantheons for gods. Add the fact that the Philippine Islands were a trade hub in ancient times meant that there was a strong influence of Chinese, Malay and Hindu cultures as well.
So what can we make of this? The average Filipino is often one who practices all sorts of superstition, from simple habits that are in tune with Chinese beliefs, to wearing Catholic amulets for protection and making sure to avoid the various other taboos that exist in our culture. Many of us believe in monsters, and even city-born folk like I are prone to understand and accept that there are entities out there like the dwende and the Diwata that shouldn’t be trifled with.
Curses, faith healing, and witchcraft are all present, though with a stronger focus on shamanistic spirit-oriented paradigms, as opposed to the classic Sorcery of the Western world. The methods are also a strange mix, often combining Roman Catholic prayers and saints with stranger, more exotic practices. The Philippines focuses it’s attentions on being able to assimilate things into our culture, so it’s no surprise that even our magical practices show that we absorb rather than reject foreign influences.
Perhaps one of the most telling examples of this is something I saw in real life. I was in a local veterinarian’s clinic to get our cat groomed when I noticed the altar they had behind the counter. On it were the Chinese Fu Lu Shou right beside the Sto. Niño. The act of Syncretism is an art form here in the Philippines, and people don’t think twice about it.
So how does this in turn affect the Mage game?
For one thing, Magical Traditions and practices are in full swing here. Apostates aren’t quite as fumbling as they would be if they hadn’t been informed of magic. The average person who develops magic *knows* that they’re not getting superpowers, they’ll probably jump to the conclusion that they have magic, and that it’s either a Curse from God (and perhaps turn Banisher in the process) or a Blessing, in which case they’ll turn it towards enforcing their Virtue and Vice.
I can imagine that the host of faith healers in the provinces are actually those who have Awakened magic and use it towards better ends. Not everyone who awakens as an apostate is evil, but the temptation to actually use it to improve your way of life in a place where crushing poverty is ever present is a strong one. Thankfully many others believe in the principle of Karma, and many real-life magical practitioners in the Philippines believe that to do harm is to invite harm upon oneself as well.
Given that I’m running the setting now, I’m looking at ways to try and come up with this variety of takes on what happens when a common Filipino gains magic. The Players become crucial now to trying to put a support structure, or organization to house them and give them a sense of purpose rather than running around in the wild, without control or guidance.