Celebrate the return of Balangiga bells
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - November 16, 2018 - 12:00am

We’ll believe it when we see it” is the attitude of Filipinos toward the return of the Bells of Balangiga. Far too long has the US government hemmed and hawed about repatriation. Jingoists in America claim right to the relics as war booty for the 1901 quelling of Samar. Ignored is the Filipino standpoint. That is, that the Filipino-American War was but a continuation of the Revolution of 1896, that the Philippines had in fact declared Independence in 1898, and that the Battle of Balangiga had been won by Filipino volunteers. Just that, the US Army retaliated by slaughtering noncombatant males, including boys as young as 10 and the aged – then took the three church bells, among other spoils.

The Balangiga bells thus symbolize for Filipinos rightful freedom from colonization, just as the Liberty Bell is an American icon. Doubtful as Filipinos are till the bells do arrive in the Philippines by mid-Dec., preparations reportedly have commenced. Two of the bells symbolically were turned over Wed. by US Defense Sec. James Mattis to Philippine Amb. Jose Manuel Romualdez in ceremonies at Warren Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The relics will be shipped to Philadelphia, supposedly for polishing, then flown to a US camp in South Korea where the third bell hangs. Together the three will be sent home to Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

Perhaps not presumptuously, Filipinos can mark the return with a renewal of patriotism. At high noon of the day of the bells’ return, sirens at capitolios and municipios can be sounded, and church bells tolled. Filipinos can stop whatever they’re doing, sing the Pambansang Awit, and whisper a prayer for the Philippine revolutionaries. Those in the streets, cars, offices, factories, schools, malls, and diners can do it, then shake each other’s hand in unity. The week can be feted with showings of the film “Sunugin ang Samar” (story and screenplay by Wilfrido Nolledo, directed by Joey Gosiengfiao, 1974).

Retellings of the Battle of Balangiga would educate Filipinos about what, why, and how it happened. One source would be the 1935 sworn Memoir, by none other than the battle planner Capt. Eugenio Daza y Salazar. The blow-by-blow account was published in a souvenir program in his honor. (Reprinted in “The I-Stories,” compiled and annotated by Prof. Augusto de Viana, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2006. Excerpted in Gotcha, 14, 16 and 18 Aug. 2017).

Nationalist poetry reading and music singing can be held in campuses and on radio-TV. Worthwhile recollecting is “Kundiman ni Bonifacio,” the Great Plebeian’s ode-kundiman, that ends with the lines: “Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya, sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila, gaya ng pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa? Aling pag-ibig pa; Wala na nga ... wala.”

The Battle of Balangiga was a surprise attack by the Revolutionary Army on the US detachment in the poblacion on Sept. 28, 1901. Thirty-six US officers and infantrymen were killed (confirmed in “The Ordeal of Samar,” Schott, 1965; and “Jungle Patrol,” Hurley, 1936). Daza swore that two enemies escaped though heavily wounded. The Filipinos suffered 28 fatalities, each identified by Daza.

The Massacre of Balangiga followed later, when Gen. Jacob Hurd Smith ordered his men: “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better you will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States.” Asked by Maj. Littleton Waller the age limit, Smith replied: “ten years. Turn Samar into a howling wilderness.”

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Onstage next weekend is “Bintao: Ang Buhay at Kabayanihan ni Wenceslao Q. Vinzons,” at the UP Theater, Diliman, Quezon City. The play traces the life of the UP student council president and Collegian editor-turned-politician then was martyred as a guerrilla during the Japanese Occupation. Written by Efren Yambot; directed by Tony Mabesa and Alexander Cortez. Play dates: Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.; Nov. 24, 3 and 7 p.m.

“Bintao” is presented as part of UP Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity’s centennial celebration. In the cast are its and Sigma Delta Phi sorority members, with guest performers from Dulaang UP, Tanghalang Ateneo, and Dulaang Filipino of Benilde. Resident Upsilonian Josh Jimenez plays the title role, supported by Liway Gabo and Chase Salazar as Liway, Bintao’s wife. Plus Vladimir Velasco, Joseph Olfindo, Ding Navasero, Dondi Ong, Fred Tengociang, EJ Ogremin, Kami De Asis, Yoly Pajaro, Fabie Ortiz, and Sarina Sasaki. Sets by Ohm David, costumes by Eric Pineda and Mitoy Sta. Ana, lights by Meliton Roxas Jr., musical scoring and composition by Krina Cayabyab, sounds by Jethro Joaquin and Jack Alvero, video by Winter David and Steven Tansiongco, movements by Boy Camara, Bot Jocano and Fritz Esase, and photography by Dino Dimar.

For tickets and other inquiries, contact Camille Guevara 0917-8239531, or Kami Andre De Asis 0995-1417613.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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