Lim: The stolen panels

Wide Awake
Melanie Lim.
Melanie Lim.File photo

Like many Cebuanos, I was curious about the stolen pulpit panels of Boljoon. So, five weeks ago, my family and I visited the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima Church in Boljoon.

I urge you to go to get the story straight from the mouths of locals. Go on a weekday and have the luxury of conversing with the church caretakers.

Two months ago, these 19th century prized panels that went missing in the 1980s, were showcased in a “Gift to the Nation” exhibit and donated to the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) by art collectors.

Thus began the demand for the return of the stolen panels to Boljoon. I would have thought that the NMP would return the panels posthaste. After all, there was no question where the panels belonged. But I was wrong.

The NMP chose to take the low road. They fought tooth and nail to assert ownership and delay their return. And NMP Director General Jeremy Barns has the audacity to ask why the governor is not happy with their response?

Well, I’m not the governor but even I am not happy with their response. I’m disappointed with the adversarial position of the NMP and livid with the patronizing statements of Barns.

They insist the panels were not stolen because they were sold by the parish priest. This, despite the fact that the Church has already spoken. The parish priest had no authority to sell the relics and Canon Law specifically prohibits the sale of church relics.

And yet, Barns ludicrously asserts that since selling of religious relics by priests is commonplace, it is not thievery. Because, according to him, should we now consider all erring priests, “officially” thieves?

When a crime is commonplace, is it no longer a crime? How does one officially become a thief?

By his own admission, Barns knew about the missing objects from Boljoon Church yet he says these objects were not “officially or legally stolen.”

I swear this battle of semantics gets more ridiculous with every statement.

The NMP is not against the return of the panels to Boljoon but they insist they own them. But how did the NMP acquire ownership of these panels? Through donation by a couple who were not legitimate owners of the items.

Granting the donors were buyers in good faith, they should know by now their donation was without legal basis.

So why does the NMP continue to insult us by saying they are willing to “share” ownership of the panels with us? Why does Barns patronize the Cebuanos by saying he needs to “educate” us? Why does he feel the need to tell us what the NMP has done for Cebu and what grand plans they still have for Cebu?

Barns is bent on saving the NMP from fencing charges. But we, Cebuanos, have no interest in prosecuting the NMP and its cohorts. All we want is for you to get down from your high horse and return the panels to us.

Read Max Limpag‘s articles on this subject at Leon Kilat: The Tech Experiments at and at and draw your own conclusions.


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