‘No ivory trade in Cebu, article exaggerated’

Posted on September 26, 2012


Fr. Brian Brigoli

MSGR. Brian Brigoli, curator of the Cebu Cathedral Museum, said he felt sorry for Msgr. Cris Garcia for how he was depicted in the NatGeo article.

He said Garcia should not be blamed because what he had in his possession was not raw material of ivory—elephant’s tusks—but carved images that had been passed on several times and whose sources could not be traced any more.

Brigoli said Garcia did not have the connections to be able to smuggle ivory pieces from every country he had been to.

Fr. Tito Soquiño of the Agustinian order which is in charge of the Sto. Nino Basilica said he found the National Geographic article “exaggerated”.

“It was not complete. That does not reflect the totality of the faith of the people in Cebu. The  one-sided article put Cebu and its people in a bad light,” Soquiño said.

The priest said he, too, was interviewed by the NatGeo writer but his comments about the Augustinians’ advocacy to protect the environment did not appear.

Louie Nacorda, heritage writer and iconographer in Cebu, said “There is no ivory trade in Cebu. Ivory in various sizes are available in Manila. You go to Glorietta, Greenhills, Tayuman, and Makati, and find religious icons made of ivory being displayed.”


Nacorda said he has less than 20  ivory icons, all bought from stores in Manila since the 1980s.

“It seems (from the article) that Cebu has the biggest market of ivories. If that is the case, people will laugh at us. Manila has the biggest market,” he said.

“As a santo collector, I  have to say that it was exaggerated.”

Nacorda said he was interviewed twice by writer Bryan Christy who visited his home in barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City. He said Christy first came last year and returned with photographer Brent Stirton last January 2012.

“I asked him (Christy) ‘why are you interested in Cebu?’. He said they are actually covering Southeast Asia,” Nacorda said.

Fr. Expedito Torrevillas, Garcia’s companion in the Commission on Worship, said some of the issues  raised in the article,  like a lawsuit in a California parish in the 1980s over alleged abuse of altar boys,  were addressed a long time ago.

“It’s really unfair. To me, there was  malice in the write up,” Torrevillas told CDN.

Margie Matheu of the Archdiocese of Cebu’s secretariat, said the timing of the magazine article was suspicious.

“Every writer has his own style of writing and gathering information. It’s difficult to discern his intentions. This can only be part of the devil’s machinations in his desire to divert and threaten the spiritual prepration for the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod. He’s making his presence felt,” Matheu said.

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