PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte called on the United States government on Monday, July 24, to return to the Filipino people the church bells that American soldiers took from Balangiga, Samar, in 1901.

The bells were taken by the American soldiers as war trophy during the Balangiga massacre, where a number of Filipinos and Americans were killed.

Duterte, in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona), said the bells belong to the Philippines and are part of the Filipinos' national heritage.

"Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours... Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit yun sa amin (Return them to us. This is painful for us)," said the President.

Filipinos revere the Balangiga bells as symbols of their long struggle for independence. The bells gave the signal for insurgents to attack American soldiers who were occupying Balangiga after the US took possession of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War.

There were three church bells taken from the Balangiga church, which was burned by the Americans after the reprisal on September 29, 1901.

One church bell is in the possession of the 9th Infantry Regiment at Camp Cloud, South Korea. The two others are on a former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenee, Wyoming.

The two bronze bells in Wyoming are displayed as part of a memorial to 46 US troops killed by Filipino insurgents in 1901.

Since 1990s, there are several attempts to return the bells to the country by both Filipino and US lawmakers, but until this year, the bells are still under US government’s control.

The American soldiers also took a 400-year-old British Falcon cannon from the plaza in Balangiga town.

Today, a monument in the town’s public plaza immortalizes the Balangiga Encounter Day by National Artist Napoleon Abueva. The monument is depicting the surprise attack by Filipino revolutionaries on American colonial forces. (With PNA and AP/SunStar Philippines)