Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Duterte was so pleased when he was informed of the return of the Balangiga bells, that he agreed to set foot on the US.
AP
With Balangiga bells coming home, will Duterte visit US?
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - November 16, 2018 - 12:00am

SINGAPORE – Following the return of the historic Balangiga bells to the Philippines, President Duterte might just consider going to the United States for an official visit, despite his being critical of America.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Duterte was so pleased when he was informed of the return of the Balangiga bells, that he agreed to set foot on the US.

Duterte is attending the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) summit here when he was informed of the return of the historic relics.

During a press briefing on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit, Locsin said the President was pleased with the return of the historic bells.

“To me. I mean, ‘You know, Sir, now that we’re getting the bells,’ and in the context of my conversations with Haley... he (Duterte) smiled,” Locsin said, referring US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

Locsin said when he was still Philippine ambassador to UN, Haley had asked him why Duterte has not accepted President Trump’s invitation to the US.

“I said, ‘He won’t come unless we get back the Balangiga bells’,” he said.

“And then she asked, ‘the Balangiga bells?’ I said, ‘Yes. The three bells that we rang when we were going to ambush the US cavalry. And we rang it and they killed us,” Locsin narrated.

The ringing of the bells in a church in Balangiga, Eastern Samar on Sept. 28, 1901 signaled a sneak attack by Filipino villagers, leaving over 40 US troops dead. US Army soldiers took the bells after the attack.

“So, she took it down and later on throughout the year, she would call me to the side and say, ‘OK, I brought it up with (US Defense Secretary James) Mattis, and Mattis said as far as the Defense Department is concerned, we’re OK,” he added.

Filipinos revere the bells as symbols of national pride. President Duterte has repeatedly called for their return.

In his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, Duterte demanded from the US the return of the bells.

The return

Mattis led the US government in a formal handover of the Balangiga bells to the Philippine government yesterday.

In a sendoff ceremony held at the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Mattis handed over custody of the three bells to Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, saying the return of the historical artifacts will “smooth the bonds that were tested but never broken by war.”

“Ambassador, bear these bells home, back to their Catholic Church, confident that America’s ironclad alliance with the Philippines is stronger than ever,” Mattis declared.

US Army soldiers took the bells after an attack killed 48 American troops in 1901, during the American occupation of the Philippines.

For 117 years, the bells were held by the US as war booty. Two of the bells are at Warren Air Force Base and the third is with the US Army museum in South Korea.

According to Romualdez, the two bells will be sent to South Korea to be reunited with the third bell at the US Army air base there.

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

Mattis said the return of the bells by the Americans to Filipinos signifies the respect of his generation.

“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 peoples,” Mattis said during the ceremony at the base.

Mattis also mentioned the shared sacrifice made by Filipino and American soldiers interred in the Manila American Cemetery located in Fort Bonifacio.

“To those who think we’re losing something by returning the bells, please hear me when I say that the bells mark time, but courage is timeless. It does not fade in history, in dimly lit corridors, nor is it forgotten in the history of conflict,” Mattis said.

Romualdez, for his part, said the return of the bells also honored 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,” Romualdez said.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said the return of the historic bells marks a “great day for the US-Philippine relationship as friends, partners and allies.”

“I can think of no clearer affirmation of the United States’ commitment to the Philippines than the return of the Balangiga bells. To all those who have worked to make this day happen, thank you!” he said.

On Aug. 9, the US ceded their claim to the Balangiga bells as Mattis notified Congress that the Department of Defense intended to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines.

The decision followed a year-long consultative process with associated veterans’ organizations and government officials to ensure appropriate steps are taken to preserve the history associated with the bells. 

Wyoming officials have said the bells are memorials to American war dead and should not go back to the Philippines.

Though no date has been set for the bells’ return, the US said it is committed to returning the bells safely, in the best possible condition and without unnecessary delay.

The Philippine government hailed the US for its efforts in returning the historic church bells, calling it a “solemn remembrance.”

“We also honor the shared sacrifice of Filipinos and Americans who fought shoulder to shoulder during the Second World War,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

Museum

The Balangiga parish is planning to build a museum for the returning church bells.

Balangiga parish priest Serafin Tybaco said they are considering putting the bells on display with other ruined bells inside the museum to be located beside the church.

Tybaco revealed the museum is part of initial plans of the parish to honor the historical value of the bells.

“We already have initial plans – from security and as to where the bells will be placed. We will be finalizing details of the preparations this Saturday,” Tybaco said in an interview with the CBCP News, the official news site of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Apart from the proposed museum, Tybaco said their parish is also planning to put in place additional security personnel in the compound because of the plan to expose the bells to the public.

“It will depend on the developments from our meetings with the Borongan Diocese, local government unit and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines,” Tybaco said. 

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the day of the return of the bells should be marked as a special day for Filipinos.

“This day (yesterday) marked the return of the bells as a symbol or trophy of the renewed goodwill in the relations between Filipinos and Americans,” Lacson said.

He pointed out the history in relation to the Balangiga bells is not commemorated by Filipinos.

“But this is marked as a symbol of victory for the Filipino freedom fighter. How many among us, for instance, would remember Valeriano Abanador, the leader of the attack against the 9th Infantry (of the US Army)?” he asked.

Abanador, the town’s chief of police, led some 500 bolo-wielding Filipino fighters in killing more than 40 American troops in Balangiga.

Lacson said the American troops, on orders of acertain Gen. Jacob Smith, retaliated and massacred boys aged 10 years old and above.

The US troops seized the three church bells out of anger and frustration over the attack.  – With Pia Lee-Brago, Edu Punay, Cecille Suerte Felipe

BALANGIGA BELLS TEODORO LOCSIN JR.
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