Balangiga bells head for home
The historic Balangiga bells have started their journey back to the Philippines' 117 years after it was taken as a war booty by the Americans from Balangiga, Samar in 1901.
Photos shared Saturday by Molly Koscina, the
Press Attache of the United States embassy in Manila showed the bells packed in wooden crates and being loaded into a truck after it was taken down in a ceremony led by Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez and US Defense Secretary James Mattis at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.
Koscina said the process is in line with the commitment of the US government to return all three bells safely, in the best possible condition and as quickly as possible.
In an interview over CNN Philippines, Romualdez said the two bells will be shipped to a facility in Philadelphia for restoration, before sending it to South Korea, where the third bell is located in a US military museum.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said President Duterte will personally witness the arrival of the three Balangiga Bells on Tuesday, Dec. 11 on board a US Air Force plane which is expected to arrive at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City before noon.
"I will go around with Ambassador Sung Kim, we will look at the bells, then I will sign documents that I am accepting the bells from them," the defense chief said.
While President Duterte will be present, he will not deliver a speech during the ceremony.
"There will be three speeches, one from Secretary James Mattis to be read by his representative, then Ambassador Kim, and me," Lorenzana told reporters at the sidelines of the Pilipinas Conference organized by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute in Makati City.
Defense department spokesperson said the bells will later be flown to Eastern Samar by a Philippine Air Force plane on December 15 for turnover to church officials in time for the first Simbang Gabi on December 16.
On September 28, 1901 during the Philippine-American war, Filipino guerillas stormed the 9th US Infantry Regiment in Balangiga killing 48 soldiers in what historians described as the United States Army's worst defeat since the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. In retaliation, they burned the towns and took the bells as war trophies.
Lorenzana said the bells' return to its homeland will serve as a closure to the dark episode in US-Philippine relations.
Lorenzana, a former Philippine military attaché in Washington, D.C. recalled that the first request to bring back the bells to the country was made in 1935 by Eugenio Daza, one the leaders of those who attacked the Americans in the town of Balangiga during the war.
“In 1935 when he (Daza) was still alive, he wrote a letter asking for the return of the bells,” Lorenzana recalled.
It was only during the time of former President Fidel V. Ramos when the Philippines reiterated its desire to bring the bells back.
“I was in DC, we had been working for the return but nothing happened because there was no involvement of the US government at that time,” he shared.
The return of the bells was further stalled in 2012 when some US legislators placed a five-year moratorium on the return of various relics to other countries, including the Balangiga bells.
But when the moratorium lapsed last year, the US State Department intervened, giving the US defense secretary the leeway to work for the return of the bells.
On November 15, Mattis officially announced the return of the historic bells to the Philippines “in consideration of the enduring friendship between the two countries” and its respect of the past as “co-equal brothers in arms.”
“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. (With a report from PNA)
HOMEWARD BOUND – Workers prepare to place two of three Balangiga bells in a wooden crate at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, USA, for its return flight to the Philippines. The bells are scheduled to arrive here on Tuesday, Dec. 11. (Photo courtesy of the US Embassy)