Balangiga bells on the way home

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By MICHAEL PUNONGBAYAN

After 117 years, the three Balangiga bells taken by the United States Army in 1901 are en route to the Philip­pines for their his­toric re­turn on Tues­day.

The United States em­bassy in Manila yes­ter­day re­leased images of the two bells in Wyoming be­ing packed and crated for ship­ment last month.

Pres­i­dent Duterte will wit­ness the turn over of the Balangiga bells at Vil­lamor Air Base of the Philip­pine Air Force in Pasay City.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana said he will also be at the event to re­ceive the his­tor­i­cal pieces from US Am­bas­sador to the Philip­pines Sung Kim and the US Depart­ment of De­fense.

“The air­craft that will be bring­ing the three bells will ar­rive be­fore lunch at Vil­lamor Air Base. They are go­ing to un­load and then they are go­ing to re­move it from the crate, put it on dis­play,” Loren­zana told re­porters.

“I will go around with Am­bas­sador Kim, look at the bells then I will sign a doc­u­ment that says that I am ac­cept­ing the bells from them,” he said.

Loren­zana said the Pres­i­dent is not ex­pected to de­liver a speech dur­ing the event that will put clo­sure to the bit­ter story that sur­rounded the bells.

The three bells were taken as war loot by the US Army from the church of Balangiga town, Eastern Sa­mar dur­ing the Philip­pine-Amer­i­can war in 1901.

One of the bells, be­lieved to be the

From Page 1 one in South Korea, was rung sec­onds after Filipino gueril­las at­tacked Amer­i­can troops as a sig­nal for the re­in­force­ments hid­den around town to join the fight­ing. At least 48 mem­bers of the 9th US In­fantry Reg­i­ment were killed in the sur­prise at­tack.

In re­sponse, US Gen­eral Ja­cob Smith or­dered the Amer­i­can troops to turn the whole is­land into a “howl­ing wilder­ness,” set­ting the town on fire and killing as many as 2,500 Filipinos.

Philip­pine Am­bas­sador to the US Jose Manuel Ro­mualdez ear­lier said the two bells at the F. E. War­ren Air Force Base in Wyoming would be shipped to Philadel­phia for restora­tion be­fore head­ing to South Korea, where the third bell is lo­cated.

Dur­ing a send-off cer­e­mony for the bells in Wyoming last month, US De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis com­mit­ted to re­turn­ing the bells safely and in the best pos­si­ble con­di­tion.

“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,” he said.

“Am­bas­sador, bear these bells home, back to their Catholic Church, con­fi­dent that Amer­ica’s iron­clad al­liance with the Philip­pines is stronger than ever,” the US of­fi­cial told Ro­mualdez.

The US gov­ern­ment agreed to re­turn the bells fol­low­ing the ex­pi­ra­tion of a law that pro­hibits the re­turn of war me­mo­rial ob­jects last Septem­ber.

With strong lob­by­ing from var­i­ous groups, the new Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act of 2018 al­lowed the re­turn of the bells pro­vided there was rec­om­men­da­tion of the US De­fense Depart­ment.

Mat­tis pre­vi­ously made the com­mit­ment to the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has been adamant in de­mand­ing for the re­turn of the bells.

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