Balangiga bells head for home

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - By FRAN­CIS T. WAKE­FIELD

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)

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