Catholic Church

Donation docs specify Boljoon panels stay with National Museum

Max Limpag

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Donation docs specify Boljoon panels stay with National Museum

ART. The National Museum of the Philippines receives a series of early 19th-century panels depicting the founder of the Augustinian Order from private collectors Edwin and Aileen Bautista.

National Museum of the Philippines

A document obtained by Rappler shows that the donors and the National Museum are aware that the panels are from Boljoon, Cebu

CEBU, Philippines – The deed of donation signed by collectors Edwin and Aileen Bautista and National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) Director General Jeremy Barns stipulated that the four pulpit panels from the heritage church of Boljoon, Cebu should stay with the NMP.

A redacted copy of the deed of donation obtained by Rappler says: “The PANELS shall be accessioned to the permanent collection of the DONEE, which shall maintain possession of the PANELS in perpetuity and shall not dispose of them, individually or collectively, in any way.”

The agreement, which was signed on January 16, 2024, also specified that the NMP should put the panels on exhibit and “ensure their accessibility.”

The document also showed that all the parties and signatories knew when they were signing the agreement that the panels came from the “Church of the Roman Catholic Parish of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima in Boljoon, Cebu.”

Donation docs specify Boljoon panels stay with National Museum

The document identified the Bautistas as the “legal owner” of the panels, which officials and church people in Cebu insist are “stolen.”

Various leaders in the government, church, and heritage circles in Cebu are calling for the immediate repatriation of the panels to the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima in Boljoon.

Father Brian Brigoli, who heads the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, said the panels are considered stolen whether they were carted away by thieves or sold by the parish priest.

The deed of donation was signed several weeks after some in the archdiocesan commission reached out to the Bautistas, telling them that the panels were from Boljoon.

Several sources have described the Bautistas as “good faith” buyers who wanted “to do the right thing” after their discovery that the panels came from the pulpit of the Boljoon church.

NMP Board of Trustees chairperson Andoni Aboitiz signed the document as one of the witnesses. Edwin Bautista is the president and CEO of Union Bank of the Philippines, a company under the Aboitiz Group.

A request for waiver?

Lawyer Benjamin Cabrido Jr., a consultant of the Cebu provincial government, said the NMP can secure a waiver from the Bautistas to avoid violating the agreement if the agency intends to return the panels to Boljoon.

“Otherwise, the rightholders of these items may sue both in order to get a judicial order to return,” he said.

Cabrido claimed that it is clear from the text of the deed of donation that they were trying to preclude removal of the panels from the NMP.

“But remember, in order for contracts to be valid, it must not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy,” he said. “Keeping it with NMP is contrary to PD 1612 (Anti-Fencing Law). Retaining it despite the overwhelming evidence that these were stolen is contrary to good morals.”

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma eariler said the panels were never authorized to be taken away from the church.

“The Archdiocese of Cebu hereby asserts its ownership of these panels and requests their immediate return to Boljoon at the pulpit where they were surreptitiously removed,” Palma said.

“They should never have been treated, then or now, as mere artworks for exhibition in museums, much less for private appreciation by the collectors who purchased them. For these panels are considered in the ecclesial rite as tools of evangelization,” he added.

When asked about the valuation of the panels, the NMP said “the donor did not seek a tax reduction so it was not valuated.”

The deed of donation identified the figure in all four panels as St. Augustine of Hippo. “The Pueblo of Bolhoon,” a book published by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, identified the panels as depicting “Agustin de Hippo, San Cirilo de Alexandria, and San Ambrosio de Milan.”

The document said the Bautistas were donating the panels “out of pure liberality, benevolence, generosity and concern for the preservation and promotion of the artistic and cultural heritage and patrimony of the Philippines.”

The document added that the donation will be acknowledged by the NMP as “the gift of Edwin and Aileen Bautista to the Filipino people.”

Must Read

National Museum cautions vs labeling heritage church panels as ‘stolen’ property

National Museum cautions vs labeling heritage church panels as ‘stolen’ property
Call for repatriation

Aboitiz said he had a “constructive” dialogue with Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia on February 27, but capitol sources claimed that during the meeting, Garcia stood firm on her assertion that the panels be repatriated to Boljoon.

On Monday, March 4, the municipal council of Boljoon is scheduled to pass several resolutions asking the members of the NMP Board of Trustees to support the repatriation of the panels.

The resolutions are individually addressed to:

  • Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco
  • Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte
  • Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committee on culture and the arts,
  • Representative Roman Romulo, chairperson of the House basic education committee
  • Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga
  • National Commission for Culture and the Arts Chairperson Victorino Mapa Manalo

The four panels were part of the six installed on the pulpit of the Boljoon church. They were lost in the 1980s and Boljoon residents had thought them gone for good until they reemerged at the “Gift to the Nation” exhibit in the NMP on February 13.

Only one panel is left, which is now on display in the parish museum. One panel remains missing. The parish installed copies of the panel on the pulpit. A heritage official said the panels will be reinstalled on the pulpit when it is repatriated. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!