Balangiga bellsâ return would restore Philippines' dignity â Palace

Malacañang yesterday vowed to work for the return of the Balangiga bells to the country, which it equated with the restoration of the Philippines’ dignity as a nation. File

Balangiga bells’ return would restore Philippines' dignity — Palace
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday vowed to work for the return of the Balangiga bells to the country, which it equated with the restoration of the Philippines’ dignity as a nation. 

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella welcomed US Ambassador Sung Kim’s statement that Washington wants to reach an early resolution on the bells, which were seized by American troops in the 20th century.

“The Philippine government will continue to work with the US to pave the way for the rightful return of the Balangiga Bells to the country,” Abella said.

“The government is also committed to continue to lay the path towards the restoration of our dignity as a nation,” he added. 

Abella noted President Duterte had described the bells as an “important part” of the Filipinos’ national heritage.

American troops seized the three Balangiga bells as war booty in 1901 after they were ordered to kill all able-bodied Filipino males and make the interior of Samar a “howling wilderness.” 

The directive was intended to get back at Filipino guerrillas who launched an offensive in Balangiga that left 48 American soldiers dead. 

Two of the bells are now in a US military base in Cheyenne, Wyoming while one is at a museum in South Korea. 

During his second State of the Nation Address last week, Duterte demanded that the US return the Balangiga bells, saying they form part of the Philippines’ national heritage.  

“They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage... Please return the bells. That (seizure) was painful for us,” Duterte said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III supported the call of President Duterte for the US to return the Balangiga bells.

Pimentel added the Americans also took other war booty that included an English-made cannon dated 1557, now on display at the Trophy Park of the F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The war trophies from Balangiga included two church bells with Franciscan Order emblems dated 1863 and 1889, respectively.

Another church bell with the Franciscan Order emblem dated 1896 is now with the 9th US Infantry Regiment in Camp Red Club in South Korea.

Pimentel said the bells are part of the Filipino culture and their return may help ease tensions between the two countries.

“And so we ask for the return of the Bells of Balangiga. For the return of the bells will help restore things to the status quo ante and help ease the hidden tensions that haunt the heirs of the Balangiga rebels and the American soldiers,” he said.

He said the much-sought American gesture would not only mean closure to the wounds of Filipino-American War but it would also herald a new era of peace and closer cooperation between the governments of the Philippines and the United States.

On Sept. 28, 2011, Pimentel filed Senate Resolution 610, reiterating the call for the return by the US of the bells of Balangiga and other artifacts and war booty.

His father and namesake, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., then Senate President, authored the first resolution passed by the chamber in 2002.

Duterte, for his part, made the appeal in the presence of Kim, one of the diplomats at the House of Representatives plenary hall while the President was delivering his SONA. The US envoy was seen removing his headphone while Duterte was talking about the issue.

“Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process.

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