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Philippines DOT supports stakeholders’ plea for return of Boljoon Pulpit Panels to Cebu

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The Department of Tourism backs the call for the National Museum of the Philippines to return the historic Boljoon Church panels to Cebu.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco expressed support for several stakeholders’ call for the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) to return the Boljoon pulpit panels to the town’s Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santissima.

In a letter addressed to NMP Board of Trustees Chairperson Andoni M. Aboitiz, Secretary Frasco manifested her support for the repatriation of the said prized church possessions, which are said to have been lost more than four decades ago.

“I, as Secretary of the Department of Tourism, an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the Philippines, respectfully manifest my support for the requests of the Archdiocese of Cebu, the Provincial Government of Cebu, and the Municipal Government of Boljoon, for the return of the religious panels to the Boljoon Church,” said Frasco in the signed letter.

“These panels bear profound significance in Cebuano’s history, serving as a tangible reflection of the rich cultural heritage and religious traditions of the people of Cebu. Moreover, the Boljoon Church is of outstanding cultural value to the Philippines as a National Cultural Treasure, National Historical Landmark, and is on the Philippines’ Tentative List as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for Baroque Churches of the Philippines (Extension),” explained the Secretary.

The tourism chief also emphasized the significance of cultural heritage in the approved National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023-2028 which underscores the DOT’s mission to build a tourism industry rooted in Filipino culture.

“Under the National Tourism Development Plan 2023-2028, the primordial goal of the Department of Tourism is to establish a Philippine Tourism Industry that is anchored on Filipino culture, heritage, and identity. Hence, as the Department of Tourism supports the protection and conservation of our nation’s religious and cultural treasures and artifacts, it also advocates that the destinations and communities from whence these treasures and artifacts emanate should be proactively sustained and duly respected,” said Secretary Frasco, further emphasizing that pilgrimage tourism, a key tourism product of the country, hinges on destinations like Boljoon Church in attracting tourists and supporting local economies.

“One of the identified priorities of the Department of Tourism is pilgrimage tourism wherein tourists visit destinations to pay homage to religious artifacts and sites that are of significance to their faith. Religious artifacts and sites such as the pulpit panels and the Boljoon Church enrich the culture and history of tourism destinations, driving travelers to visit, supporting the local economy by providing tourism-related livelihood and employment,” added Secretary Frasco in her letter to Mr. Aboitiz.

Earlier, the Municipality of Boljoon in Cebu asked the NMP to investigate the circumstances surrounding the once-lost pulpit panels, which have been donated by private collectors to the NMP last month.

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