I have survived my third trip to the Philippines and had a wonderful time. A few unorganized thoughts in the upcoming post(s):
This term is laughable as commonly applied to American ones. Lakewood Church in America is supposedly the largest church in the US with 43,500 members in 2008. (1) This is small potatoes compared to any parish I know of in Manila. I visited three parishes while I was there. The first was only full.. maybe 2,000 in attendance I guess? It was the 7:00 PM Sunday service. Most of the parishes have mass every hour on the hour all Sunday long in addition to however many vigil services they might have. That parish alone may have had 40,000 in attendance that weekend. This probably translates to twice as many members.
Quiapo. Holy communicants batman! As we pushed our way through the crowded streets of the Quiapo market and I noticed the vendors gradually becoming sellers of religious items (rosaries, candles, incense etc...) I knew we must be nearing the famous church. We rounded a corner into a packed square. When I say standing room only, I mean it took us about 10 minutes to cover 50 yards across the edge of the square, pushing our way through the dense crowd. I don't know how many people the church holds inside, if my memory serves me correct - something like 4,000 normally sitting, and I'd guess 15,000 with standing room. That's just inside though. There had to be 20,000 or more between me and the church building standing outside praying and watching the huge monitors. And that's only what I could see. It looked like a Stones concert or something. This wasn't Sunday morning mass though, this was Friday afternoon prayers! There is a miraculous statue there "the Black Nazarene" and this is why the people gather on Fridays there.
St. Peter's Cathedral - Quezon City
On the Sunday before we left, I was priveleged to experience another mass with standing room only. The 7 PM service let out (crowds flooded out to the bottom of the steps) and the 8PM service had no seats left by the time we were able to make it inside. I can't figure out what diocese it was in, I'm surprised that Quezon City doesn't seem to have its own diocese (city has 2.7 million people) but I'm sure the mass was celebrated by the bishop (he was sitting in the bishop's chair) and I received the Blessed Sacrament from him.
It would be easy to be romantic about all this. But the Church in the Philippines has problems similar to America. A lot of casual dress (though imminently more understandable there - very hot and no AC makes shorts rather acceptable I suppose), holding hands during the Our Father, general lack of participation, terrible music (bishop's chanting excepted) and during the last mass there were two women near me who were talking and laughing obnoxiously through most of the Liturgy of the Word and homily. At least they started behaving like adults during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Funny thing is, I saw a sign on the parish just two blocks from my wife's house where we were staying, "Traditional Latin Mass Every Sunday". SWEET!!! On closer inspection though, it was SSPX. Bummer. Maybe by the next time I visit the Philippines, it will be licit for me to attend there.