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The Philippines Smuggles Elephant Tusks

Updated on February 26, 2013

Bryan Christy, an investigative journalist of National Geographic claims that Filipinos are fond of images of saints or ‘ivory worship’ also known as, ‘religious statues’ – I'll discuss this further down. However, I think virtually not all of the Filipinos are aware where it is come from, and how it is made, and such. Basically, It is from the elephant tusk so the more they use 'statues' made of ivory, the more elephants will die. I believe that this has been a dilemma since about 1989, and is still steadfastly growing.

During the interview of Father Jay, a curator of his archdiocese’s annual Santo Niño exhibition with Bryan, he says: (n.d.) "Most of the old ivories are heirlooms. The new ones are from Africa. They come in through the back door." Then Bryan asked him: ‘You buy the ivory, which came from a hazy origin, and you turn it into a spiritual item?’ The priest giggles, and whispered that it is like buying a stolen item [1]. This is a massive issue nationally and even internationally that how can be the Philippines is considered the most religious country in the world, and yet prone to corruption?!

On balance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species(CITES) should not overlook the ivory trade in the country because of faith. Many elephants were killed for this. Now, they are endangered.

I think the invaluable Filipino values and future are at risk! It is just not lawfully right and religiously right either! If it’s not solve, I reckon the faith will remain be questioned by other religious groups and other countries.

Religious Background

There is no doubt that the Philippines is one of the most religious countries in the world. Everyone has Santo Niño (considered as a small Jesus) in their houses, and perhaps, even those who are homeless living on bridges! That is part of the religious culture and if you don’t have it, you won't be considered as a true Filipino! - I know that myself because I am like them.

Filipinos will attend mass on Sundays, and some will go to church virtually every day. That is not actually enough, we have Morning Prayer, 3 o’clock prayer, 6 o’ clock prayer and we do family rosary, novena, a prayer to save soul, you name it! This has to be done literally everyday.

I too considered myself as a religious man, but I’m very curious. I remember I questioned my family especially my mum because we have a deep relationship, about using images and statues, praying to saints, and lots of things. It is not because I questioned my faith, but I don’t normally believe what I hear, see, and sometimes I challenge the facts! Do not get me wrong.

All the time, you can see me in church, library, and within the university that I am in. In fact, I’ve done 13 churches back then because in our religious belief, it will give us good lucks! However, I seldom attend masses organised and directed by a priest. One reason is that I find it bewildered on why most of them have fancy cars and living in a big luxury mansion with velvet walls - I know it sounds cheesy, but it is the reality. Second reason is that during masses many Filipinos will judge someone about what he/she is wearing, and lots of silly things! So every time I am in church I will go directly to the praying room, which is more solemn and I feel that I am more connected to Him. I don’t think that is a problem for we only have one God anyway. With high respect, I don’t have doubts about my faith, but the people who run it.


[1] Christy, B. (2012), Ivory Worship. National Geographic,, accessed on 17 October 2012.


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    • Lanzskie profile imageAUTHOR

      Roland Adala 

      5 years ago from Wales, United Kingdom

      Hello always exploring,

      Yes, it is indeed wrong. The prototype really is in Africa. But in my research, the religious groups imported it through back doors - not good. Conversely, to some extent, the Philippines is very good when it comes to "natural" resources and for holidays/vacation. If I'll be very honest, I love the country, but I'll never understand the government.


    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I see the killing of any animal for profit is wrong. The Fox for the fur coats, the alligator for shoes/boots. How very sad that anyone would kill an elephant for ivory..Your piece is interesting. I enjoyed reading about your country..Thank you..


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