Preservation of wooden pulpit panels underway

SunStar Local News
SunStar Local News

THE Archdiocese of Cebu is looking at at least six to eight months of preservation and conservation measures before the four wooden pulpit panels can be “eventually” returned to Boljoon Church.

In an interview on Thursday, May 23, 2024, Rev. Fr. Brian Brigoli said the Archdiocese and the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) had agreed that the “most urgent matter to do first” for the pulpit panels was to subject them to “scientific” conservation measures. This includes assessing their current conditions and state of weathering before any preservation procedures and interventions can be applied.

Brigoli, head of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, said this measure will ensure the longevity of the panels that were made of wood many centuries ago.

The procedure will look into the type of wood materials and the stucco-based paint used on the panels in order to determine the intervention to be applied to the panels.

“Undergoing na ang moang procedures. Mao usab ni ang hinungdan nganong di pa nato mabalik ang mga pulpit panels kay unahon usa og human ang maong necessary and urgent task,” Brigoli said.

(Our procedures are currently underway, which is also the reason why we cannot return the pulpit panels yet, as we need to prioritize and complete the necessary and urgent tasks first.)

The NMP has also requested the archdiocese to subject the fifth pulpit panel, which is currently housed in a museum inside the Boljoon Church, to the same “scientific” conservation measures, Brigoli added.

He said the archdiocese has approved the request and is already preparing the documents to be sent to NMP for preservation and conservation measures.

The NMP, led by its general manager Jeremy Barnes, met with Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma on May 21 to discuss the return of the panels to the Boljoon church, following the approval of the NMP Board of Trustees to return the panels to their rightful owner.

Technicalities

During the meeting, Brigoli said, the Cebu Archdiocese reiterated that it will never retract its claim of ownership over the four wooden panels. So both parties agreed to set aside the discussion on the ownership and focused on the preservation and conservation of the panels instead.

Brigoli said the NMP will look into the “technicalities” regarding its ownership of the panels, as the government agency initially assumed that it was donated to them.

He added the NMP can either proceed to donate or pursue a de-acquisition process in order for the panels to be returned to the Boljoon Church or the Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Santisima Parish Church.

Solving these technicalities will ensure proper documentation on the return of the panels on the NMP’s part while for the church, it will ensure that the pulpit panels are not “alienated.”

Brigoli said the archdiocese aims to have the four panels returned before the end of the year, with each panel requiring two to three months of preservation procedures.

The wooden panels will be returned to the pulpit chamber, replacing the current replicas as these were tools of evangelization, he said.

Housing these panels in a museum or storage would detract from their intended purpose and symbolism in evangelizing the Catholic faithful.

He added that the NMP will finance the preservation and conservation measures. However, this will not undermine the archdiocese’s claim to ownership of the pulpit panels if the NMP were to demand split ownership.

Last Feb. 14, the pulpit panels resurfaced after a private couple-collector donated the items to the NMP, which was tagged as a “Gift to the Nation.”

The similarities between the donated religious artifacts and Boljoon Church’s panels lost since the 1980s prompted the Cebu Archdiocese to assert its ownership and demand the return of the panels.

There were also calls from the Boljoon local government units and the Cebu Provincial Government for the NMP to return the panels. / EHP

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