The clergy has to explain on the missing religious relics of the Baler Church
By Jason de Asis

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, December 13, 2010-Again, call it a “hometown decision” if you may but allow me to disagree from the usual Senate issues for today back to my hometown in Baler, Aurora over an important issue which – to many - may be inconsequential but carries with it a lot of weight because of its religious and spiritual undertones.

My attention was riveted at Sen. Edgardo J. Angara’s call for the Prelature of Infanta to make an   immediate inventory of dozens of religious items at the Baler Church which are under the Prelature. The call for inventory was precipitated by reports that several relics are missing from the custody of the local clergy.

“Hesusmaryosep!” What has become of our Baler Church? Has it become a “den of thieves” as Jesus Christ put it? I hope not because if it did, then where do we see the souls of those believing on Catholicism go? Right down there, God forbid!

Angara earlier called on Bishop Rolando Joven Tria Tirona to submit an accounting of 27 valuable and irreplaceable religious relics at the Baler Church, including the Church pulpit and six imported chandeliers from Italy.

The religious relics were donated by former First Lady Doña Aurora Quezon who was responsible for building the Baler Church,” he said. He said these items consisted of gold and sterling silver. 

Aside from the pulpit, other items Angara sought inventoried were an altar and harmonium, one tabernacle, marble altar, 14 Stations of the Cross, one monstrance, one white vestment, five vestments, one cape, one communion rail cloth, manteles, one cross with Chandelier’s base, one pole candle stick, one altar bell, one procession cross, one pail with holy sprinkler, one incenser, one set of gilded tablets, one missal stand, one Missal Romanum, two art glasses, communion tray, one Guion, one altar vigil light, Holy Ghost and linen altar cover.

Local historian Ilovita Mesina, curator of the Museo de Baler, said some of the religious relics were part of those solicited by Doña Aurora when she had ordered repaired the Church in 1939.

Mesina said that aside from the religious relics, also missing was the famous Campana de Baler, a giant bell which became so well-known because of its far-reaching sound which could be heard as far as the adjoining towns of Bacong in San Luis and Dipaculao. It was used as alarm bell during calamities, to announce somebody’s death, when there was fire among others.

It interests me a lot to find out how these relics are missing and what Church people have to say about it. I was told by Ms. Mesina herself that when Church officials were asked to explain, their standard reply was “when we came, we never came about them.” In other words, hindi na namin inabutan ang mga nawawalang kasangkapan ng Simbahan.”

At a time when the Church is firing out at political leaders and proponents of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO), raising hell over the alleged lack of consultations among others, it is worthy to note that again the religious leaders should look at the mirror, examine their conscience and see what is happening within the four corners of their esteemed Church. With several priests engaged in “extra-curricular” activities, not the least of which is sexual promiscuity, the more it becomes necessary for their top officials, the good bishop included, to examine their ranks first because taking care of the others.

If Church relics are missing left and right, then the Prelature has a plethora of problems facing it, so to speak. And this is not mere play of words.

With all due respect to Bishop Tirona, the reported loss of religious relics is quite bothersome when you listen to priests whose self-righteous pronunciations seem to say they are God’s gift to us fellowmen. Who should be held accountable for the disappearance of these items? Is it the Church officials themselves or the parishioners who came to see the majesty of these religious items donated by some Good Samaritans?

And will the Catholic leadership please speak up on the issue? The sooner the better for us Catholic faithfuls, me included. If only they would react on the missing Church treasures as fast as they bashed pro-development advocates, then we will have a clear view of what is happening inside the Catholic hierarchy.

So much has been said about the 27 religious relics. And what about the Campana de Baler which, since it first disappeared seems to have appeared in some other places like a terrifying ghost? I heard that the bell was brought down from the belfry sometime in the 60s during the time of a certain Fr. Atanacio, a Carmelite priest. A certain Freddie Gloria, the priest’s driver reportedly narrated that the bell was brought to Italy.

There was even a report that the bell was sighted at the Villa Escudero, a museum of the Escuderos in Sariaya, Quezon province but this disappeared, yet another report is now said the bell is now in Mexico. So what is the truth about it?

We have the list of 65 individuals and groups who donated the religious items to the Baler Church, including former President Manuel Roxas, Don Andres Soriano, Elizalde & Company, Convent of the Assumption, Society of the Divine World, Catholic Women’s League, Army Chaplain’s Aid Association among others.

With no one else being held accountable for the missing religious relics, are we going to blame these donors and now say “It’s your fault. If you did not donate, then nothing will be stolen.” My goodness, nag-donate na nagkasala pa.

Or do we hear somebody saying they were gobbled by a UFO which hovered high over the Baler sky some years ago? Or “Baka kinuha ng hapon” that’s the first impression of Batang Baler admin website who posted stories and issues in Aurora province when he read the articles wrote by Mr. Manny Galvez of the Philippine Star.

“Patawad po, Father and Bishop.” I don’t want to hurt anybody among the leaders in the Prelature of Infanta but the people of Aurora are seeking the truth about it and I of course as an Aurorans.

In the name of Jesus, I know everything will be fined as they say “know the truth and the truth shall set us free.” Let us tackle the issue not for personal gain.

It is the people who will decide whatever the outcomes of the issue concerning the Baler Church. Sadly, I don’t want to spell it out. (Jason de Asis)