Monday, September 23, 2019

Historian: Balangiga bells to begin journey home

AP file photo

AFTER more than a century, the three Balangiga bells taken as war booty by United States (US) troops from Eastern Samar in 1901 will soon be returned to the Philippines.

Rolando Borrinaga, a member of the sub-commission on Cultural Heritage of the National Committee on Historical Research, said the US is slated to hold a ceremony at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming on November 15 (Manila time) for the repatriation of the two church bells.

"This will mark the beginning of the journey of the two Wyoming bells back to the church from which they were taken. The Wyoming bells will now be able to begin their journey home," the prominent Eastern Visayan historian announced Monday, November 15, in a Facebook post.

Borrinaga said the third Balangiga bell, which was kept at a US Army museum in South Korea, was crated weeks ago and ready for shipment home.

He said the bells would be refurbished before being repatriated to the Philippines.

The exact date and other details concerning the return of Balangiga bells have yet to be announced, Borrinaga noted.

"The latest successful campaign for the return of the Bells of Balangiga was largely a veterans-to-veterans effort," he said.

"So many in the US veterans community have let their voices be known and lent their support - including National Resolutions of support from both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion," he added.

The Balangiga bells were taken by American soldiers in 1901 as war booty after they killed the town's residents in an event historically known as Balangiga massacre.

Two of the three church bells originally from Balangiga, Eastern Samar are being kept at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyyene, Wyoming, while the third bell is at a US military base in South Korea.

President Rodrigo Duterte, during his second State of the Nation Address in 2017, asked the US government to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines.

A day after Duterte's appeal, the US Embassy in Manila pledged to take action and come up with a resolution.

In August this year, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed documents favoring the repatriation of Balangiga bells to the Philippines.

Following the latest development, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the executive branch welcomes the plan of the US to turn over the possession of the three church bells to the Philippine government.

"We welcome any movement towards the return of the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines," the Palace official said in a statement issued on Tuesday, November 13.

Panelo, however, refused to give further comment "until the last bell has been properly delivered to the country."

"In the words of the President himself: "It ain’t here until it’s here,'" he said.

"The President himself, in his second State of the Nation Address, expressed his desire for the return of these bells explaining that they form part of our country's patrimony and they were taken at the cost of bloodshed of thousands of Filipinos," Panelo added. (SunStar Philippines)


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