Archive for September 25th, 2012

Cebu linked to ivory trade; Priest’s role cited in Nat’l Geographic


A decades-long struggle in faraway Africa to stop the killing of elephants for their ivory tusks can be partly traced to Cebu as a source of demand and blackmarket trading.

The role of Cebu and one of its promi- nent priests is highlighted in the October issue of National Geographic Magazine in its cover story “Ivory Worship”.

The investigative article reports that while the rise in killings is linked to China’s demand for ivory, religion is a driver of the illegal ivory trade in key countries, including the Philippines, where ivory is carved and made into faces, bodies and limbs of Catholic icons like the Sto. Niño.

The article opens with and devotes lengthy paragraphs to an interview with Msgr. Cristobal Garcia, who is described as “one of the best known ivory collectors in the Philippines.”

The writer Bryan Christy states that Msgr. Garcia, whom he visited in his church in Talisay, gave him the names of his “favorite ivory carvers, all in Manila” and advice on how to smuggle an ivory icon to the United States by declaring them as antiques or wrapping them in soiled underwear to fool Customs checkers since a global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989.

The magazine writer said he visited each of the shops recommended by the priest.

Sought for comment, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma last night said he would answer the allegations in a press conference today or tomorrow.

“I know the issue. I will address it,” he told Cebu Daily News who showed him a printout of the online article. The magazine is not yet on sale in newsstands but early copies are already in the hands of subscribers and posted on the Internet.

Msgr. Garcia, chairman of the Commission on Worship of the Cebu Archdiocese, was not available for comment. For the past few weeks, he’s been in Manila for medical attention. Calls by CDN to his mobile phone since last week were not answered.

“He’s been advised by the doctor to rest because of his hypertension,” said Margie Matheu, secretariat of the Cebu Archbidocese.

Garcia is well respected in Cebu as spritual adviser of covenant communities like the Bukas Loob sa Dios, as well as founder of the Society of Angels of Peace based in Talisay.

His church of the Nazarene is visited by many, especially during the Hubo, a ritual bathing and changing of clothes of the Sto. Niño at the end of the annual Feast of the Holy Child in January.

Garcia is also well known as a devotee of the Sto. Niño with an extensive personal collection of Sto. Niño icons, started since he was a boy, and which he shares with the public in displays at the Talisay church and in exhibits at Ayala Center every January.


National Geographic, a monthly magazine known for its in-depth scientific research work and nature photography, is printed in 34 language editions and has a global circulation of 8.2 million according to a press release of the magazine in 2011.

It is the official journal of the National Geographic Society and runs articles on geography, popular science, history, culture, current events, and photography.


Environment lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr. expressed outrage upon reading his October subscription copy. He called for an investigation.

“I want to see lawsuits,” he told CDN in a long-distance call from Manila.

“We are asking the Archidocese, the National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, Depatment of Envrionment and Natural Resources, and the Interpol to investigate and prosecute all persons responsible,” he said.

“This illegal wildlife trade has long been going on with the Philippines as a source, as buyer and as a conduit of wildlife contraband.

This investigation must include the international syndicate behind this operation that exposes all Filipinos (and Catholics) to global embarrassment. It is quite ironic that the religion whose God designates us humans as caretakers or guardians of life and life forms is the same religion whose priests are now accused of killing iconic life-forms (elephants) to satisfy the “capricho” for religious symbols. “

Oposa, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee in 2009 for his work in environmental law, has filed groundbreaking lawsuits against illegal loggers in Mindanao and government agencies for the pollution of Manila Bay, and has written books for the legal arsenal for ecology activists.


Some of the last big tuskers gather in Tsavo, Kenya. A single large tusk sold on the local black market can bring $6,000, enough to support an unskilled Kenyan worker for ten years. (


Fr. Bossi, former Mindanao kidnap victim, dies in Italy


Fr. Bossi

The people of Mindanao will always treasure their memories of Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, the Italian missionary abducted in 2007 by a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said in a tribute to the priest who died in Italy Sunday.

Bossi, 62, who struggled with lung cancer for a year, died in the Humanitas clinic in Rozzano sul Naviglio in Milan.

“We feel very sad [upon learning about] the death of Fr. Bossi,” Jumoad said. “We treasure his memories, his missionary work, here in Zamboanga del Sur,” he added.

“We pray that there be more Fr. Bossis in terms of commitment to the ministry, in terms of fidelity, so we entrust his soul to the Almighty, that he be given the joy of life hereafter,” the bishop said.

Bossi lived in the Philippines for 32 years, “creat(ing) schools and working cooperatives…and taught people to overcome divisions to collaborate, share and promote the common good,” his friends and colleagues from the Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estore (PIME) recalled.

The missionary was kidnapped in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay, in June 2007 by armed men belonging to a breakaway group of the MILF, and released a month later on July 10.

He returned to Italy the following month and had the opportunity to meet Pope Benedict XVI, who had appealed to his kidnappers for his release.

In the July 20, 2007, issue of the PIME newsletter, Santos Digal wrote of Bossi’s narration of his ordeal while in captivity: “Speaking alternatively in English and the local dialect, the Italian missionary confirmed that the kidnappers ‘treated him well’ despite (being moved) constantly to evade military troops. He was fed rice and salt (and) dried fish.

To keep up with his abductors, the confessed chain smoker said he was forced to give up cigarettes: “One night while we were walking, we (had) to climb a mountain and my breathing was heavy. I told myself if I want to survive, I have to keep breathing. Better stop smoking and I stopped smoking”.

Told about the 14 Marines in Basilan who died when their unit was ambushed as they returned from a mission to check reported sightings of him, the Italian priest said, “I felt so sorry. In a way, I feel responsible for their deaths.”

Bossi, who was not allowed by his superiors to return to Payao after the kidnapping, also told his colleagues of his desire to go back to his mission work in the area.

“I want to return to Payao to greet my people and tell them I am well,” Digal quoted Bossi as saying. “They say that a priest must also be a father and so as the father of my community, it is my duty to return to my people, to my children.”