National Museum board approves return of pulpit panels to Boljoon church

Max Limpag

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National Museum board approves return of pulpit panels to Boljoon church

HISTORY. The controversial early 19th-century panels depicting the founder of the Augustinian Order displayed at the National Museum of the Philippines.

National Museum of the Philippines

The four pulpits stolen four decades ago from the heritage church in Boljoon, Cebu will be reinstalled

The pulpit panels removed from the heritage church of Boljoon in southern Cebu in the late 1980s that ended up as a donation to the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) will be returned.

Members of the NMP Board of Trustees (BOT) met on Wednesday, May 8, and discussed how the four pulpit panels will be returned to the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima.

The NMP said its board approved the return of the panels, subject to certain terms, “which are envisaged to form part of a comprehensive agreement between NMP and the Archdiocese of Cebu in support of the Boljoon Church Complex as a National Cultural Treasure and candidate for UNESCO World Heritage Inscription.”

The Board also moved to initiate discussions with the Archdiocese of Cebu immediately on the matter.

During the meeting between Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and NMP BOT Chair Andoni Aboitiz on April 16, they agreed to prioritize the conservation of the four pulpit panels. NMP presented Palma with a report on the condition of the wooden panels.

In an interview last April 27, Palma said that during the discussions, the archdiocese “claimed our right [to] the ownership of the panels.” He thanked the NMP for conserving the panels and taking care of them but stressed that they should be returned.

“We also know that government money was spent for the repair. But the higher truth and the more important truth and reality is that it belongs to Boljoon because it is property of the church and we expect that to be returned soon,” Palma said.

“This is a triumph of the community and the stakeholders for not just claiming for the return of the pulpit panels to the church where they are from but this is a duly recognition of the voice of this community affirming and demanding its right for what truly belongs to their culture, faith, memory and the sense of their identity,” said Fr. Brian Brigoli, Chairperson of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.

“This is to show that the community is empowered already. This goes to show as well the competency of our Government Cultural Agencies entrusted to the care of our cultural assets,” Brigoli added.

The four pulpit panels used to adorn the pulpit of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima. Boljoon and heritage officials said there used to be six panels on the pulpit. Only one remains, and it is now displayed at the parish museum. One panel is still missing.

The pulpit panels were long thought lost until the four resurfaced as a donation to the NMP by collectors Edwin and Aileen Bautista and put on exhibit on February 13, 2024. –

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