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Cebu Province Demands Return of Historic Church Pulpit Panels from National Museum

CEBU CITY – The local government of Cebu has renewed its appeal to the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) for the return of significant pulpit panels from the Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church in Boljoon, underscoring their cultural and historical significance to the province.

According to Philippines News Agency, a second letter was dispatched to the NMP after an initial request went unanswered, emphasizing the province's determination to reclaim the four 19th-century pulpit panels that disappeared in the 1980s. The governor highlighted the panels' profound connection to the heritage and identity of Boljoon residents, expressing the provincial government's intent to ensure their repatriation.

The panels in question are critical elements of the altar in the historic church of Boljoon, a structure that traces its origins back centuries and holds significant cultural value for the community. While six panels originally comprised the pulpit, two have been accounted for – one is safeguarded by the church's clergy, and another remains lost.

Speculation surrounding the disappearance of the panels in the late 1980s includes theories of looting or unauthorized sale, raising concerns among local heritage advocates and the Catholic community. The rediscovery of the panels at an exhibit in the NMP earlier this year has ignited a campaign for their return, led by both government and church officials in Cebu.

Governor Garcia has expressed her intention to engage directly with NMP representatives and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma to facilitate the panels' restoration to their rightful place. The province's legal team has also alluded to the possibility of pursuing administrative and criminal actions should the museum fail to comply with the request for the panels' return, emphasizing the legal and moral imperatives to preserve and respect cultural heritage.