Church, Boljoon await ‘terms’ for panel return

HOMEBOUND. The four historic wooden pulpit panels of the 183-year-old Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima, commonly known as Boljoon Church, will soon be coming home. /
HOMEBOUND. The four historic wooden pulpit panels of the 183-year-old Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima, commonly known as Boljoon Church, will soon be coming home. / Photo courtesy of Elmer Domingo

THE Archdiocese of Cebu and Boljoon town welcomed the announcement of the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) on the return of four historic wooden pulpit panels to the Boljoon Church.

NMP’s Board of Trustees “unanimously” approved the return of the pulpit panels to Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Santisima Parish Church in Boljoon town; however, it will be subject to “certain terms.”

In a statement released on May 8, NMP said the terms will be the basis of a comprehensive agreement between the national museum and the Archdiocese of Cebu.

Rev. Fr. Bryan Brigoli, chairman of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission of the Cultural Heritage of the Church, told SunStar on Thursday, May 9, 2024, that NMP’s Board of Trustees gesture, means that the agency recognized the claim of the Cebu Archdiocese as the rightful owner of the pulpit panels.

Brigoli said the decision has also recognized the call of the people of Boljoon town, the opportunity to preserve, conserve and manage their own cultural and historical assets, such as the pulpit panels that serve as an item of their identity, culture, and history.

Boljoon town expressed joy over the NMP’s assurance that the four “stolen” pulpit panels would be turned over to them.

Boljoon Mayor Jojie Genesse Derama told SunStar Cebu on Thursday that having that piece of history returned to their parish church meant a lot to the town.

“Kami magsadya. Amoa pang mas i-strengthen amoang faith sa Ginoo,” he said on Thursday, May 9, 2024.

(We will rejoice about it. We will further strengthen our faith in God.)

He said this development is the result of the series of negotiations between the Archdiocese of Cebu, the municipal government, and NMP advocating for the return of the pulpit panels.

Meanwhile, the return of the pulpit panels will also support the declaration of the Boljoon Church as a National Cultural Treasure and its candidacy for the UNESCO World Heritage Inscription.

Brigoli said he has yet to meet with the NMP to identify these “certain terms” as he has no idea as to the specifics of these conditions.

He said the NMP and Cebu Archdiocese met for the first time on April 16, with Archbishop Jose Palma and chair of the NMP Board of Trustees Andoni Aboitiz.

However, there was no discussion on the “certain terms” for the return of the panels as no promises were made during the meeting.

“Even though there were no promises (made) when it comes to the return of the Boljoon pulpit panels, the most important thing that we agreed upon (the meeting) is that those panels will undergo intensive conservation measures. So that we can increase its lifespan,” Brigoli said in a mix Cebuano and English.

On May 2, a delegation from NMP led by Aboitiz and Director General Jeremy Barns visited the Boljoon Church including the museum and the convent.

Brigoli said among the discussions during the visit was how to improve the church’s local museum and how to handle the existing old religious artifacts.

“They are trying to see the capacity of the community to protect and preserve these items,” Brigoli said.

He added that aside from calling for the return of the panels, the community must also be well-equipped to preserve and conserve these religious items.

On Feb.14, the pulpit panels resurfaced after a private couple-collector donated the items to the NMP, which was tagged as “Gift to the Nation.” The similarities of the donated religious artifacts to Boljoon church’s lost panels since the 1980s prompted the Cebu Archdiocese to proclaim its ownership and call for return of the panels. / EHP, KJF

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