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Balangiga bells' return signify closure of Filipino-American war — Romualdez

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The return of the Balangiga bells to the Philippines brings a close to the Filipino-American war, Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced the return of the war-trophy church bells during a military ceremony in Wyoming on Thursday (Manila time).

Romualdez attended the ceremony at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base, which formally began the repatriation of the bells taken by American soldiers from a church in Balangiga, Eastern Samar in 1901.

"The turnover ceremony was very simple. I rode with Secretary Mattis to come here to this site and the secretary just simply said in not so many words 'Ambassador, these bells are now officially going to be returned to the Philippines,'" Romualdez said.

The Philippine envoy stressed the significance of the event as it honors both Filipino and American soldiers who fought in World War II.

"The significance of this event is the fact that we honor all of those and the kind of relationship that we have with the United States," the ambassador said.

After the ceremony in Wyoming, the two bells will be shipped to a facility in Philadelphia where it will be refurbished before being returned to the Philippines.

The two bells will then be sent to South Korea and will be reunited with the third bell at the US Army air base, according to Romualdez.

"Hopefully, before the end of the year we should expect all three bells from Balangiga back in the Philippines," Romualdez said.

In his speech during the turnover ceremony, Mattis said the US returns the bells with consideration of the present but with the utmost respect of the past.

Mattis noted that Filipino soldiers fought with American troops during World War II and the Korean War. The Philippines also sent doctors and nurses in support of the US during the Vietnam War.

"Today, we aid the future generations by ensuring allies stand together in a future that is ours to shape; and so persuade potential adversaries that it simply isn’t worth it to gamble against Wyoming warriors who live by the cowboy code or their comrades-in-arms from the Philippines," Mattis said.

BALANGIGA BELLS

JIM MATTIS

JOSE MANUEL ROMUALDEZ

US-PHILIPPINES TIES

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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