Romualdez said he expected the bells to arrive in Manila by mid-December and be formally turned over to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a ceremony at Nichols Air Force Base.
AP Photo/Neal Ulevich, File
Philippines envoy accepts symbolic return of Balangiga bells
Jose Katigbak STAR Washington bureau (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez on Wednesday accepted from US Defense Secretary James Mattis the symbolic return of the bells of Balangiga to the Philippines in a ceremony at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Romualdez said he expected the bells to arrive in Manila by mid-December and be formally turned over to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a ceremony at Nichols Air Force Base.

The bells will then be brought to a church in Balangiga, Eastern Samar from where they were taken as war booty in 1901 by occupying US forces following a bloody insurrection by Filipino nationalists.   

Nearly 50 US soldiers were killed in the surprise attacks. In reprisal, American forces were ordered to lay waste to Samar, leading to the deaths of about 2,000 people.

The US military said the bells were used by insurrectionists as a signal to launch attacks on American troops in Balangiga.

Three of the church bells were confiscated, with two put on display at Warren base. The third was put on display at an Army facility in South Korea.

Romualdez said as soon as the two bells in Wyoming are dismantled, they will be flown to South Korea where the third bell will be taken down. 

All will then be flown to the Philippines.

“The US took the bells from the Philippines and the US will return the bells to the Philippines,” Romualdez quoted Mattis.

Filipinos have long called for the return of the bells.

“Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forbearers who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process,” President Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address last year.       

 “That is why I say today, give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” Duterte told the US.

As this developed, an official of the Diocese of Borongan in Eastern Samar yesterday said the parish in Balangiga is ready to receive the bells. 

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III, chairman of the Mass Media and Communications Office, said they welcomed the news that the bells would soon be returned to their province.

“It is a welcome development. The parishioners of Balangiga have been patiently waiting for the bells’ eventual return,” said Quitorio, who is also the chaplain of the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Chapel in Sabang, Borongan City. 

He added that the church of Balangiga, St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish, is preparing for the return of its bells.

“The church was reconstructed after it was devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.  It has two belfries. The other one is empty, but awaiting the return of its bells,” Quitorio said.

He said the diocese only learned of the bells’ return from news reports. – With Evelyn Macairan

Related video:

BALANGIGA BELLS
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