First let us take a little history lesson. The Philippine-American War that followed over three centuries of colonial rule began to wind down in the early 20th Century with the March 1901 capture of the first President, Emilio Aguinaldo. But armed resistance continued against American occupation. In September of that year an ambush was launched against American forces at the town of Balangiga, Samar. The Americans retaliated against both Filipino guerillas and the Balangiga townspeople, and took the local church bells – used to signal the initial ambush – as war trophies. They have remained so for over 100 years; but now, there is a chance that they may finally be returned.
CNN Philippines reports that a tangible piece of Philippine history, three of them even, may soon be coming back home to where they were originally seized some nearly 117 years ago. Molly Koscina, spokesperson for the US Embassy in the Philippines, recently issued a statement that the Bells of Balangiga will be returned to the Catholic Church in the country, although no specific date for a handover was given. As Koscina tells it, “We’ve received assurances that the Bells will be returned to the Catholic Church and treated with the respect and honor they deserve.”
This news is being corroborated by Teddy Locsin Jr., the Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations. Locsin posted on Twitter this Sunday, August 12, that an informant from the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) gave confirmation that the US government has approved a motion to return the bells. The Ambassador is one of the contemporary proponents for reclaiming the Balangiga Bells, and had discussed the subject with his American counterpart in the UN, Nikki Haley, back in 2017. Locsin thus thanked Haley on his tweet.
The antique church bells were hung in the parish church of Balangiga, now a municipality in Eastern Samar province. They were reported used as a signaling device by Filipino insurgents allegedly led by Vicente Lukban to attack the American garrison of the town while they were having breakfast on September 28, 1901. This is the American version of the so-called “Balangiga Massacre”, while the Filipino historical viewpoint considers the eventual reprisal of the Americans, which killed guerillas and civilians and led to the seizure of the bells as war booty, to be the real massacre. Two of the Balangiga Bells are on display in Wyoming; the third is in a US Base in South Korea.
During his 2017 State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte demanded the US return the Balangiga Bells as part of the country’s historical heritage. About the only dissent from the American Government comes from two US Congressmen critical of President Duterte’s ongoing “Drug War”.
Images from Inquirer.net and Wikipedia