Long-lost church panels set for return to Cebu

Long-lost church panels set for return to Cebu

By: - Reporter / @nestleCDN
/ 05:06 AM May 24, 2024

Long-lost church panels set for return to Cebu

CHURCH TREASURES These 19th-century pulpit panels donated by private collectors to the National Museum of the Philippines in February will soon be returned to the Patrocinio de Maria
Santisima parish church in Boljoon, Cebu, after an agreement with museum officials and
representatives of the Archdiocese of Cebu. —PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE PHILIPPINES

CEBU CITY—The four 19th-century pulpit panels that were earlier donated to the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) by private collectors will be returned to a Catholic church in Boljoon town, Cebu, church officials said.

Fr. Brian Brigoli, Cebu archdiocesan committee chair on cultural heritage, said that during a meeting on May 21, the NMP assured representatives of the Archdiocese of Cebu of the return of the historic panels that were originally part of the pulpit of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima in Boljoon.


“The pulpit panels will be returned to Boljoon, ensuring their rightful place in the historical context of the area,” said Brigoli, although the date of the turnover had yet to be announced. But Brigoli said the issue of ownership would be addressed separately due to various technicalities binding both parties.


He described the meeting as “very productive and constructive,” emphasizing its implications for the cultural heritage of the Archdiocese of Cebu, particularly in Boljoon, a southern town some 102 kilometers from this capital.

“Additional agreements and details will be discussed in future meetings, highlighting ongoing cooperation between the Archdiocese and the NMP,” Brigoli said.


The Archdiocese of Cebu, in a statement, said the NMP would assist in the conservation and restoration of the Boljoon heritage complex, including the church, convent, museum, Escuela Catolica (Catholic school) and their adjunct structures.

“[We will] collaborate beyond the issue of the pulpit panels,” it said.

Brigoli said the collaboration marks a significant step in preserving the cultural heritage of Boljoon, with both parties committed to working together for the benefit of the community and future generations.

Aside from Brigoli, also present during the meeting were Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and NMP Director General Jeremy Barns.


In February, the NMP received the four historic pulpit panels as donations from private collectors Edwin and Aileen Bautista.

The panels depict the founder of the Augustinian Order, Saint Augustine of Hippo, who established the Boljoon parish over 400 years ago.

The manner in which the panels were taken from the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima and how it ended in the hands of private collectors remained unknown.

Not artworks

Archbishop Palma had said the panels were not artworks, but important in the “ecclesial rite as tools of evangelization.”

“While we understand the National Museum’s desire to exhibit the same to the general public, we have to assert the sacral nature of these panels. They are integral to the patrimony of the church as part of her missionary work and [are] thus considered sacred. Their illegal removal constitutes a sacrilege,” Palma said in a statement in February.

According to Palma, the four panels were “removed without permission” from the church during the time of his predecessor, the late Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who served as Cebu archbishop from 1982 to 2010.

“No official record exists neither in the Archdiocesan Archives nor in the Chancery Office of any request from the parish priest at the time, Fr. Faustino Cortes, requesting approval to deconsecrate them for removal, much less conveyance to third parties in exchange for monetary purposes of the parish,” the archbishop noted in the statement.

The NMP, in a separate statement also in February, said the donors “procured these specific panels through legitimate means, highlighting their commitment to ethical acquisition.”It said their decision to acquire the artifacts and donate them to the NMP “reflects their dedication to preserving cultural heritage and promoting patriotism.”

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The Boljoon Church was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the NMP and a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. It is home to the canonically crowned 400-year-old image of its patron, the Patrocinio de Maria Santisima.

TAGS: Cebu, Church

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