The importance of returning the Balangiga bells
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - December 16, 2018 - 12:00am

What matters most to us, Filipinos, is not really the material value of the bells that were taken from us 117 years ago. It is rather the deeper meaning, the far-reaching implication and the great significance of such a landmark act of the US to yield finally, and humbly, to the imperative of returning to a less-powerful nation, what rightly belong to us. It is extremely important for our national dignity, our self-esteem, and our pride as Filipinos. It is important the US show respect for another sovereign nation.


It should be stressed also that it was the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte that shamed the Americans, leading to the passage of a special law, requiring the return of the bells. Well, official records show that president Noynoy never even mentioned the bells in all his SONAs. Neither did GMA nor Erap, I wonder if he ever knew about them at all. Not even FVR, a West Point graduate and son of the Philippines’ first ambassador to the US. Neither did presidents Cory Aquino, Ferdinand Marcos, Manuel L. Quezon, Don Sergio Osmeña Sr., Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos P. Garcia, or Diosdado P. Macapagal insist on the return of those bells. Only Duterte did what they all failed to do.

Those bells symbolized the bravery and patriotism of the Filipinos. Although the Americans might have been more humane and less savage than the conquistadors and the guardia civils of Spain, the US soldiers were likewise colonizers. Thus, the massacre of over 40 Americans in the town of Balangiga in 1901 was a great victory of the native defenders against foreign invaders. It is now good for our sense of pride as Filipinos that we witness the humbling of Americans and their noble act of yielding to what is proper and reasonable. The return is the victory of the might of right, rather than the right of might.

US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, declared that returning the bells was the right thing to do. It took the US 117 years to realize that simple truth. The turnover at Villamor Air Base was witnessed by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Feller, AFP Chief (outgoing) General Carlito Galvez Jr., US Indo-Pacific command Chief Admiral Philip Davidson and Philippine Ambassador to the USA Manuel Romualdez. This is a very important event in the Philippine-US relations which had been weakened recently by our country’s closer links with China and Russia. The return of the bells might help repair the damage in that relations.

Today, the third Sunday of advent, the Church of San Lorenzo de Martir in Balangiga, Samar, celebrates a milestone occasion; the final return of the bells which were taken from its belfry a century and almost a score years ago.

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