“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

What’s up with the National Museum?

OF LATE an emissary has reportedly called on the Diocese of Borongan to negotiate that one of the Balangiga bells be placed at the National Museum in Manila. 

            Although National Museum Director Jeremy Barns has denied any part to the Zubiri   Senate Rosultion 965 that sought the transfer of one of the Balangiga bells to the National Museum, his media statements tell his mind quite substantially.

            He in fact has lambasted the Diocese of Borongan and the Catholic church for hypocrisy and double standardizing. “Stating that ‘respect’ for historical integrity, the sacred character of church objects, and the property rights of the Christian faithful cannot be compromised…raises eyebrows among those dedicated persons, including many within the government, who constantly work to mitigate the ongoing degradation and loss of our church heritage in many parts of the country,” so said Director Barns.

            Referring to the statement of the Diocese of Borongan (See page A11) in response to Senate Resolution 965, Barns was quick to add, “Such strong statements as were made make the Church in general open to charges of hypocrisy or double standards, which we would deeply regret.” He also noted that the worsening quality of churches and Catholic symbols in the country are “too often caused by the Church authorities themselves as items, including bells, are sold or allowed to decay beyond repair due to ignorance, indifference or worse.”  That’s a gross accusation.  It subscribes to a myopic view that churches and church artifacts were primarily made for museums and nothing else, and, therefore, not preserving them the way museum curators do makes the Church “ignorant, indifferent or worse.”

            Barns must have glossed over the fact that the country’s teeth in museum pieces came only in 1966 when President Ferdinand Marcos signed Republic Act No. 4846 or the Cultural Properties and Protection Act that designated the museum as the lead agency in the protection and preservation of the nation’s cultural properties

            Without even mentioning the centuries-old museums of UST, San Agustin and other Church collections, it does not settle well with common sense to accuse of hypocrisy and double standardizing the very institution that was the only one that preserved these artifacts for many centuries when the National Museum and those “dedicated persons” were yet in limbo.  It may be good to check how the government has preserved historical and cultural artifacts since Aguinaldo’s time.  Even the preservation of government’s records down to the municipal level has been quite in shambles until lately.

            Also, mentioning in his media statements that Barns’ office has been helping “for years to rebuild the church in Guiuan since Typhoon Yolanda” and those “numerous dioceses and parishes which we have assisted, expending considerable government resources and public funds in the process” is an unnecessary nitpicking that leaves some bad taste in the mouth.  As a matter of course, that presumably expects a debt of gratitude that smacks of patronage politics that demands a quid-pro-quo—in the same fashion that a politician builds a government project, say a waiting shed, and place his name on it for every constituent to acknowledge and give vote.

            The national museum director raises the issue of the “strongly worded” statement of the Diocese of Borongan, as if a “softly worded’ statement would change the rhyme and reason in its objection to the Senate Resolution 965.

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