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National Geographic article is anti-Catholic

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The poaching of elephants, smuggling of elephant tusks and the illegal trade of ivory worldwide were highlighted in a recent National Geographic article, “Blood Ivory” subtitled “Ivory Worship” written by Bryan Christy.

The story was meant to draw attention to the continuing problem of elephant poaching despite an international accord not to harm these animals. The worldwide protection of elephants is embodied in the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Treaty. Prior to this, harvesting of ivory from African and Asian wildlife was not banned. Decades of elephant poaching have made a possibility the extinction of the species, just like what happened to its relative, the mammoth.

Ironically, the universal pact has upped the value of elephant products like hide and meat. But it is the animal’s tusk, actually teeth protruding from its mouth used for carvings and art images, billiard balls and piano keys that drive people to kill elephants for profit. Elephants are also traded as attractions in zoos and circuses, so it is not surprising to hear they are transported live and made to cross borders despite global interdiction.

Elephant poaching is not just a problem in the African continent, but also in India, Vietnam and Cambodia. Asia has a thriving ivory market, wherein Chinese and Japanese traders battle it out as to who gets the biggest supply at lowest prices.

I’m citing these facts to illustrate that ivory images used in worship by Catholics is hardly a significant factor in the rise of elephant poaching and smuggling of ivory. In the Philippines, government corruption is still at the heart of the problem if we examine how smuggled tusks valued at tens of millions of pesos disappeared from under the noses of Philippine Customs officials in 2005, 2006 and 2009. The illegal supply was reportedly intended for China and Japan, but some unscrupulous businessmen with ties to corrupt authorities were able to get a slice of the illegal shipment.

So why blame Catholic devotees? Catholics with a taste for fine art buying either legal or illegal ivory as undermining CITES is pure hogwash. The Natgeo article is anti-Catholic but tries to obscure its slant under the hide of a wildlife protection drive.


The facts linking Msgr. Cristobal Garcia to ivory smuggling is simply that he is the “best known collector of ivory images in the Philippines.” The article made no mention how many items in the Garcia collection were heirloom, entrusted or donated to his religious congregation by other families, or if the collection had a catalogue showing when the ivory images were bought.

The article carried only anecdotal quotes by Garcia from dealers and carvers who Christy interviewed, but how credible is that? Except for the author’s recollection that Garcia gave him advice how to conceal ivory when passing through Customs check, which would pit his word against that of the monsignor, the facts showing the cleric had transgressed the law on account of his ivory collection amounts to indiscriminate shooting. At the very least, the allegation needs to be evaluated and the basis offered by the Natgeo article, verified.

Christy visited the Philippines five times and during one Sinulog celebration, he asked Garcia for an interview about the Santo Niño icon. The author confessed in the same article that his real purpose was to get leads about ivory smuggling. But he misled Garcia by making him talk about a subject that later led him to show off his religious art collection. That should have prompted the author to ask about ivory smuggling, but curiously, he did not.

Of course, journalists commit lapses, but to deliberately come up with a one-sided story, one that intentionally omits the viewpoint of the accused even if he was available to air his side, is downright unfair. That the subject was deluded so the author could get a glimpse of his religious art collection, and later tie it up with the ivory smuggling story is vicious and cruel.

Notice that Christy also raked up the cleric’s alleged past sexual misconduct, as if this was a factor in ivory smuggling. In other words, even before Mr. Christy met Garcia, he was already boxed as worldly and corrupt.


Now that the government takes up from where the Natgeo story left off, I wonder where this issue will end. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced it does not have equipment to detect when ivory was harvested, so DENR is just going through the motions here. Assuming some images were pure ivory and purchased post 1989, what now? Will the National Bureau of Investigation track down small time carvers in Tayuman, or probe ivory traders in Spain and Italy?

When this issue dies down, only the remains of the day will make us remember the article—for its injurious references to the Cebuano priest but more importantly, to the not-so-subtle mockery laid on a Catholic tradition.

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Tags: Blood Ivory , Bryan Christy , Catholic Church , Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) , ivory trade , Ivory Worship , National Geographic , Religious Icons

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PXKULXBWP5TIN4MIENESOUOLVI Rody Dela rosa

    That’s absurd. NatGeo is anti killing elephants for their tusks. The writer just sees what she wants to see.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CFGE3EZNIPSQT6GN6PKJXUJV24 Enrique

    I agree with the writer of the article.  I would venture to say that this is part of the propaganda to discredit the Church and possibly through the Planned Parenthood budget of $1B a year.  They have the money, they can afford to do this.  Otherwise, why highlight the Philippines?  We are not even a drop in the ocean when it comes to the ivory global market.

    • eric_santiago1

       if you read the article it also covered thailand and china…

      • Anton Dans

         Obviously, hindi niya binasa yung article. He’s banking on the irrefutable stand of the Church that it monopolizes the truth and what is good.

    • Tonton

       Everything that doesn’t sing praises to the Roman Catholic Church must be an anti-church propaganda to you.

    • lazy_dawg

      dude, where are your marbles ? what planned parenthood are you talking about ? what dots are you trying to connect ?

    • MangTeban

      The greatest anti-Church propaganda is being perpetrated by the Church itself: pedophile priests, and the institutional cover up and silence of the church leadership.

  • gets_mo

    National Geographic is a reputable magazine.  I’m sure the statements in the article had been verified for their authenticity prior to publication.  For all you know, the interviews had been recorded.  I am sorry if you consider the article as anti-Catholic.  It is not.  If anything, it is only concerned about the indiscriminate killing of elephants.  

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/SHDTZGP3Z44QA2Y33ADVMMUE54 Rowie


      • http://profile.yahoo.com/B7ZVRMAWHLJME5D27T7LP74KRM Ren Christopher S

        yeah really

      • Lico Reloj

        no way!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BL2GYU35SO6HTJUEAUTXS3QFYM George Lapulapu

    asusmaryosep… you patronized commodity that kills elephant..commodity that is forbidden..illegal… whether you are a pope, priest, or sakristan and gets reprived for doing –IS NOT anti-catholic… plain and simple lack crime or at worst lack of moral compass… otherwise, let us fully encrust the Pope’s throne with blood diamond from africa…and let us call it good taste…

  • Tonton

    What a beautifully written red herring! We may be “small fry” ivory consumers, but we still contribute to the slaughter of elephants.

    But I’m more interested in Garcia’s sexual abuse case. Apparently, he avoided publicity and jail; thanks to the practiced motions of those in power. With all these sexual abuse cases cropping up, I’m certain the Catholic Church has a tradition of transferring pedo-priests and keeping scandals hush hush. Now you can whine about the not-so-subtle mockery. 

  • http://twitter.com/angmgatuhod Denice De Guzman

    I am Catholic, and I find this article, not the Natgeo one, as irresponsible. It promotes the blindness that many Catholics already employ, that because someone pointed out a logical flaw in the ‘tradition’, you reject it as anti-Catholic instead of taking the time to reflect and see the reason.

    In the article it is stated that other uses for ivory has already been replaced by other materials, but the ivory religious icons still collect a large following because the mere fact that it is ivory makes it more precious. That implies idol worship, because an icon–which is supposed to remind one of his faith, becomes even more important than living animals. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but isnt stewardship part of the Catholic faith?

    The truth is that the quotes the writer has derived from the Msgr. and the other diocesan priest is troubling. That the Msgr., in a position of power, knows of these smuggling tactics and does nothing about it is troubling. That the power-that-be of the Catholic Church thinks that blessing ivory that has been carved into a religious icon erases the crime committed to living things is sacrilege. 

    The Natgeo article showed not only patronage of an illegal commodity in what is supposed to be a righteous community, it also showed the impunity of not only a corrupt government, but also of religious leaders. I would go as far as to say that the article was not Anti-Catholic, but even more Catholic than those who hide behind tradition and supposed faith that sully the image and interests of my Mother Church.

    • eric_santiago1

       “That the Msgr., in a position of power, knows of these smuggling tactics and does nothing about it is troubling.”

      it was worse than turning a blind eye to the smuggling of ivory. according to the natgeo article they were actually a part of it and even encouraged it.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BKDTKLW6CJNOHFFH3LY3YTPNHY Noshairalawever

    Any “catholic TRADITION” that entails the use of illegally obtained materials ABSOLUTELY DESERVES TO BE MOCKED.  Didn’t God say “thou shalt not worship IDOLS”?

    • RiverHorse

      be careful… not all catholics are sinners… marami ako kilala nagpapalit ng religion para lang maitago kasalanan nila. they may not have “idols” pero they think of themselves as privileged dahil sa itinuturo ng kulto nila. and many of them become leaders of their supposedly “non-sectarian” group just to be able to rake in millions of pesos.

  • Johann55555

    Do you really believe Nat Geo began with the premise of attacking the Catholic church and then wrapped a wildlife conservation story around it? Just how many acts of pure evil must the clergy commit before you condemn them?

    The facts linking Cristobal Garcia to ivory smuggling? How about when he described how he did it and said he wrapped it in “old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it,” to get through customs?

    And oh yeah, he’s also a child molester… I’m dumbfounded how you could possibly defend such an evil person and have the audacity to call this journalism.

    • eric_santiago1

      i also found it curious that the writer was ranting over the smuggling issue but was totally silent on the child molestation issue against garcia.

  • http://twitter.com/iamjrmy jrmy

    This article is anti-catholic! ‘nuf said

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=666861461 Erickson Sandel

    Honestly, wala namang anti-Catholic remarks na ginawa doon sa Nat Geo article. It speaks of ivory tusks, not about the Catholic faith. It just happened Katoliko ang naging resource ni Bryan Christy. At any rate, lahat naman tayo, maging Katoliko o hindi, dapat mangalaga sa kalikasan!

  • RiverHorse

    skewered is the term i would use about the natgeo article being anti-catholic. while i am a practicing catholic, i do not see anything foul in the article… whether those items are heirlooms, gifts, entrusted or whatever it is innately immoral to keep those ivory made items. having those is similar to acquiring furniture made from “hot” logs/wood (yung galing illegal logging).

  • itsmetruth

    Malou, check your facts. You are just trying to appeal to the masses by accusing the article as ‘anti-Catholic’. If you had taken the time to actually read the ENTIRE article, then you will see that it does not bash the Catholic faith in any way. Are the ‘injurious claims’ to the Cebuano priests untrue? They were his own words and there are existing allegations that this same priest sexually abused an altar boy.

    You are merely blinded and are grasping at strings in order to dismiss the points raised by the National Geographic investigation.

    Re: “I’m citing these facts to illustrate that ivory images used in worship by Catholics is hardly a significant factor in the rise of elephant poaching and smuggling of ivory.”
    True, it MIGHT hardly be a significant factor, but it STILL plays a role in the entire trade, regardless of how ‘insignificant’ it might be to you.

    From the way you refer to ivory-made pieces as ‘fine art’ shows that you are clearly deluded. God didn’t create the world for man to pillage. And He certainly didn’t make man stewards of his creation, only to have them barbarically poach them for trivial uses. Yes, I said trivial. And you might agree, if you can only empathize and understand the gravity of the situation.

    Have you seen images of elephants butchered and mutilated just for their tusks? Of their bloody carcasses left to rot after their tusks have been chopped off from their now-bloody faces? What if somebody did that to you, just to harvest your TEETH? It is inhumane and it is cruel.

    Check your facts again.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Abdul-Rashid/100004367910013 Abdul Rashid

       Why not say instead anti evil? Pouching is evil, child molestation is evil, Garcia is evil irregardless whether he is catholoc or Muslim.

  • AntonioPeYangIII

    //I’m citing these facts to illustrate that ivory images used in worship
    by Catholics is hardly a significant factor in the rise of elephant
    poaching and smuggling of ivory. In the Philippines, government
    corruption is still at the heart of the problem if we examine how
    smuggled tusks valued at tens of millions of pesos disappeared from
    under the noses of Philippine Customs officials in 2005, 2006 and 2009.
    The illegal supply was reportedly intended for China and Japan, but some
    unscrupulous businessmen with ties to corrupt authorities were able to
    get a slice of the illegal shipment.//

    So basically, because there are worse things happening, you want us to overlook what the NatGeo report says?

    Somebody needs a crash course in critical thinking, methinks…

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PJTH3SHQU3B4TCUVRH2UXZCJDY Balahura

       ivory images used in worship
      by Catholics is hardly a significant factor in the rise of elephant
      poaching… well this is still poaching . If you are a priest now i will preach to you a bible saying “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. International Standard Version (©2008) …Luke 16:10

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Krizz-Ibarra/100000181696874 Krizz Ibarra

    WTF! It seems that the church leadership is no longer able to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil. Has it come to this. justifying the slaughter of helpless animals.

  • lazy_dawg

    I think the author needs to have her ‘head’ examined_ Nat Geo is NOT anti Catholic, but reporting the facts regarding the illegal trade of ivory. I am a Catholic by birth and a practicing one, I am not offended by NatGeo’s article.. Please Malou get your facts straight and don’t let your emotions cloud your understanding on this  article …

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Abdul-Rashid/100004367910013 Abdul Rashid

       Practicing catholic? Do you also practice child molestation? Child sex etc?

      • g219h

         At least they don’t teach their kids to behead infidels.

  • Sid Marcel

    Down the drain evil Msgr. Garcia.

  • ryan andres

    Another typical zealot who feels that an attack on a catholic priest is an attack on catholicism itself. Moron.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Abdul-Rashid/100004367910013 Abdul Rashid

       You will know a tree from its fruits. If this Garcia is a rotten child molester, not that the whole catholic hierarchy is a child molester but the whole tree is rotten. Even the Pope is an impostor. Revelation even discribes her as the whore drunk with the blood of saints. Revelation 17

      • g219h

         Sounds like you are a melodramatic tad.

  • ryan andres

    If you want a country run by religion, move to Iran.

  • blainz

    “Notice that Christy also raked up the cleric’s alleged past sexual misconduct…”

    “Alleged” daw.

    Garcia already admitted to sleeping with boys, but according to this reporter, it’s just alleged. Maybe she’ll want to minimize the child-molestation further… maybe Garcia allegedly admitted to allegedly sleeping with alleged boys.

    But that’s too much work for this alleged journalist.

    If Malou’s powers of denial could be harnessed for electricity, Cebu wouldn’t need the Visayan Electric Company. Allegedly.

    • eric_santiago1

       i love your comment (and not allegedly)

  • droccu

    1. “So why blame Catholic devotees?” Is the article blaming Catholic devotees for the acts attributed to a priest? It is directed to the priest which makes it worst because he is a priest!2. “raked up the cleric’s alleged past sexual misconduct, as if this was a factor in ivory smuggling”. It may not be a direct factor to this case but it speaks of the cleric’s character.
    Don’t be too defensive Malou Guanzon-Apalisok just because you write for a Cebu based paper (?) where this priest resides. Let the priest defend himself for acts attributed to him solely and not use religion or blind faith to shield him from any legal actions…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MJFXCRSCXRWPLL42QQKSINC3AQ Mamerto

    Where have you people been all these years…?
    National Geographic has been anti-Roman Catholic for at least fifty years.

  • diegogo

    Get over yourself Malou. Catholics like you are as much as part of the problem as the corruption you’ve mentioned.
    Why not try using your connections as a journalist to investigate how widespread -as alleged by Christy- the ivory trade is in the Philippines then maybe you can use your report to refute (or, God help you, support) his accusations?

  • eric_santiago1

    god in heaven and his angels rejoice every time an elephant is slaughtered so its tusk can be carved into religious icons…

  • g219h

    So many non-believers and muslims in here. Just read the posts.

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