Balangiga bells return home

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Balangiga bells return home
A Philippine Airlines plane takes off a past US air force C-130 plane and Balangiga church bells shortly after they arrived from the US at a military airbase in Manila on December 11, 2018. Church bells seized from the Philippines by the US as war trophies over a century ago were returned on December 11, in a bid to turn the page on a difficult chapter between the historical allies.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — After being taken as war booty more than a century ago, the three Balangiga bells arrived home in the Philippines.

The three historic bells on Tuesday landed at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City aboard a United States Air Force C-130.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will officially receive the bells from US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim in a handover ceremony.

The American envoy said it would be an honor for him to return the bells, which were taken from San Lorenzo de Martir Church in Balangiga, Easten Samar in 1901.

"It has been a long road home for these bells, which were caught up in the aftermath of the tragic conflict that raged across this archipelago at the turn of the last century," Kim said in a column published by The STAR.

President Rodrigo Duterte was supposed to attend the handover ceremony but Malacañang announced on Monday that the president will skip the event.

In his 2017 State of the Nation Address, Duterte demanded the return of the church bells. Two of which have been part of a memorial at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming while the third one was with a US Army regiment in South Korea.

Kim, on the other hand, credited the return of the bells to the efforts of US Defense Secretary James driven by "respect for the Philippines, our friend, partner and ally."

Rolando Borrinaga, secretary of the National Committee on Historical Research of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, earlier said the campaign to return the bells was more of a veterans-to-veterans effort.

According to the historian, two major war veterans in the US started the campaign to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines.

"There has been no paper from the Philippines related to this campaign. It seems like a successful legislation in the US to return the bells to us," Borrinaga said in an interview with ABS-CBN's Bandila last month.

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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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