Philippines honors fallen soldiers as US announces return of Balangiga bells

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines expressed its appreciation for the United States (US) government after announcing the return of the Balangiga bells, which were taken by American soldiers as war booty more than a century ago.

Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez attended a ceremony at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, together with US Defense Secretary James Mattis, which officially began the repatriation of the three bells to the country.

"Today is a time of solemn remembrance as we pay tribute to all those who gave up their lives during the Filipino-American War," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Thursday morning.

The Philippines also honored Filipino and American soldiers who sacrificed their lives during World War II.

The DFA also expressed its gratitude to the US government, particularly Mattis and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who worked for the return of the church bells.

The government also acknowledged the help of Filipino and American friends, including Hank Hendrickson, Dennis Wright, Henry Howard, Dan McKinnon and others from the US-Philippines Society.

Romualdez noted that President Rodrigo Duterte had mentioned the return of the Balangiga bells to Mattis during the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting in Clark, Pampanga last year.

"That one was the beginning of the real strong process into getting things done and Secretary Mattis did promise that he will do everything he can to get those bells back," Romualdez said.

In a speech during the military ceremony, Mattis said the return of the war-trophy church bells to the Philippines would help cement ties between the two countries.

"In returning the Bells of #Balangiga to our ally and our friend the Philippines, we pick up our generation’s responsibility to deepen the respect between our people," Mattis said.






As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: December 14, 2018 - 1:06pm

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo says Malacañang welcomes the United States' return of the Balangiga bells to the Philippines but adds that it will withhold any further comment on the matter "until the last bell has been properly delivered to the country."

"In the words of the president himself: 'It ain't here until it's here,'" he says as quoted by the state-run news agency PTV.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said he would meet with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on November 15 (Manila time) and would release an official statement after a military ceremony for the repatriation of the Balangiga bells.

The three bells were taken by American soldiers as war booty more than a century ago. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has demanded the return of the bells to the Philippine soil in multiple speeches.

Ties of the Philippines with its longtime ally, the US, has soured after criticisms on human rights violations in Duterte's war on drugs.

Duterte had similarly raised rights violations committed by the United States, particularly the killing of Moros at Bud Dajo in 1906.

December 14, 2018 - 1:06pm

So will he or will he not? Malacañang gives mixed signals on whether President Duterte will attend the ceremonial turnover of the Balangiga Bells, which were transported all the way from Wyoming and Okinawa before it arrived in Manila earlier this week.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says Duterte will not attend the Mass at the turnover ceremony. "He has heard all the masses in the world. But he wil be there," Panelo says.

This was after the Palace announced days ago that Duterte would skip the ceremony without giving specific reasons.

The president, over the past couple of years, has been expressive of his unfriendly views toward the United States.

December 13, 2018 - 8:54am

President Rodrigo Duterte changes his mind and will now be attending the turn-over ceremonies of the Balangiga bells to local officials in Samar on Saturday, December 15.

The announcement is made hours after the Palace reiterated Wednesday that the president will be skipping the event due to "pressing matters of governance."

December 12, 2018 - 2:45pm

The Diocese of Borongan and the parishioners of St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish of Balangiga, Eastern Samar launch a website for the historic bells.

On it, they express their gratitude to "individuals and groups who have worked, lobbied and prayed for the eventual return of the Balangiga Bells."

"Please be assured that we will return the bells to their original religious purpose—and care and cherish them as a precious legacy of the profound faith, heroism and courage of our forebears," the text on the website reads.

December 12, 2018 - 2:41pm

The Balangiga bells are displayed for public viewing on Wednesday and Thursday (December 12 and 13) from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

Visitors are advised to observe the dress code and other rules:

  • No sandos
  • No slippers
  • No flash photography
  • No video recording
  • No food and drinks
  • No touching of displays

The bells will be turned over to the parish in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

December 11, 2018 - 11:00am

The Balangiga Bells are home after a long journey from the United States and Japan. They are currently being offloaded from a US Air Force aircraft at the Villamor Air Base.

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