MUCH has been said already about the historic Balangiga bells that found their way back to the church of San Lorenzo de Martir in Balangiga, Easter Samar, where they rightfully belong, after they were readily and gladly removed from the church’s belfry as spoils of war by American soldiers during the 1901 Filipino-American war.
One can only understand how the Americans felt when the bells’ tolls were used by bolo-wielding Filipino insurgent guerillas as a signal to attack a detachment of American troops having breakfast at their garrison in Balangiga. The soldiers had left their rifles at the barracks thinking that having established peace they were already far from harm’s way.
This was the time when Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, was captured and forced to issue a proclamation calling all insurgents to lay down their arms and submit to American rule.
Our history, however, of fighting oppression and subjugation has always been predicated on the fact that all the Filipinos wanted was humane treatment and respect. Armed rebellion in the Philippines has always been a tacit declaration of war against foreign domination.
Thus, among the many uprisings by Filipino insurgents against the Americans, the Balangiga massacre stood out not only as a storied event but also as a harrowing experience for the place and its residents when the newly assigned US troops got revenge after receiving orders from their angered leader, General Jacob Smith, to burn, kill and leave the place a “howling wilderness.”
It is in this context that I do not understand why some group still demanded that an official and public apology be made by the US government upon the return of the bells for the atrocities committed.
War is a tit-for-tat action. In some cases the retaliatory action is beyond imagination, as what happened in Balangiga.
That is all there is to it. (Jesus Sievert)