The bells will ring for all peo­ple of good­will

Tempo - - News -

O NTues­day, Dec. 11, the bells of Balangiga, Sa­mar, will re­turn to the Philip­pines, 117 years af­ter they were taken away as war booty by Amer­i­can troops in a bloody war in Sa­mar. From Vil­lamor Air Base in Pasay City, they will be air­lifted to Balangiga by Dec. 15, so that on the first day of “Sim­bang Gabi” on Dec. 16, they will ring once more in their old church.

Sec­re­tary of De­fense Delfin Loren­zana said United States Sec­re­tary of De­fense James Mat­tis in­formed him of the sched­uled ar­rival of the bells at Vil­lamor Air Base. Mat­tis said he had in­formed the US Congress that the US gov­ern­ment, fol­low­ing a year-long con­sul­ta­tive process with vet­er­ans or­ga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, had de­cided to fi­nally re­turn the bells. “This is my good news to you, that af­ter 117 years, the bells will come where they should be­long,” he said.

Balangiga is a small town in to­day’s Eastern Sa­mar, about 98 kilo­me­ters from Ta­cloban City. On Sept. 28, 1901, Filipino guer­ril­las and town res­i­dents at­tacked a US gar­ri­son in the town, killing 54 Amer­i­can soldiers. The Amer­i­cans coun­tered with a cam­paign through­out Sa­mar that killed some 2,500 Filipinos.

Over the years, there have been many at­tempts to get the Amer­i­cans to re­turn the church bells, but US vet­er­ans or­ga­ni­za­tions and the fam­i­lies of the soldiers who died in the at­tack of Sept. 28, 1901, held on to the bells they claimed as tro­phies of war. Many ap­peals for their re­turn were not heeded. This year, in re­sponse to a re­newed ef­fort by Pres­i­dent Duterte, the US fi­nally de­cided to re­turn the bells.

Their re­turn will make this De­cem­ber a spe­cially mem­o­rable one for Philip­pine-Amer­i­can re­la­tions. As long as the bells were on dis­play at US bases in Wyoming and in South Korea, they served to re­call a bit­ter and deadly war be­tween Amer­i­cans and Filipinos. Our two na­tions have long for­got­ten that war, eclipsed by the suc­ceed­ing events of World War II when they fought to­gether as one.

To­day, on this sec­ond Ad­vent Sun­day, with Church rites around the sec­ond can­dle of Peace, fol­low­ing last Sun­day’s first can­dle of Hope, we have so much in our land on which to an­chor our hopes for peace. The next two Ad­vent Sun­days will cen­ter on the can­dles of Joy and fi­nally Love.

This De­cem­ber will be a great month for our peo­ple. In the face of so many tri­als, we re­main a peo­ple of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. When the Balangiga bells peal forth to pro­claim the start of Sim­bang Gabi on Dec. 16, they will be ring­ing not just for the peo­ple of the small Sa­mar town of Balangiga but for the en­tire Filipino na­tion – and for all peo­ple of good­will.

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