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Delivering Stories of Progress


Balangiga bells arriving in the Philippines on Tuesday

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Christmas bells would be very pleasant to the ears of the Warays but also to the entire Filipino people around the world, as the three historical Balangiga bells that are very close to the hearts of the Filipinos are on their way home after 117 years.
As background, these three Balangiga bells were taken by the United States Army in 1901 from the Church of San Lorenzo de Martir in Balangiga, Eastern Samar which the American treated as war trophies after their retaliation on the Balangiga massacre during the Philippine-American War.
This coming Tuesday, December 11, the bells will be turned over to the Philippines at Villamor Air Base of the Philippine Air Force in Pasay City and President Rodrigo Duterte will witness this historical event as these precious historical mementos are turned over by US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim and the US Department of Defense to the Philippine government.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, “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.”

See related story:

After more than 100 Years, US agrees to return the Balanggiga Bells

To put an end with the painful story behind the Balangiga bells, the Defense Chief said that the President might forego to deliver a speech during the historical event. But to make this more significant, Lorenzana said that he would walk around with Ambassador Kim, look at the bells and  then will sign a document explicitly tells that the Philippine government is accepting the bells from them.

It was Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez who said that 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.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis committed to return the Balangiga bells. He further said, “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 added also told to Ambassador Romualdez, “Ambassador, bear these bells home, back to their Catholic Church. This is to show the sincerity of  America’s ironclad alliance with the Philippines is stronger than ever.”

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.

Last month, retired Consul General and Philippine Military Academy Prof. Sonny Busa clarified that the Philippines was able to get the approval of the US government to return the bells after Filipino negotiators earned the support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the US. VFW is the “largest and oldest war veterans service organization” in the United States.

“For years they have opposed the return of the bells. Only last year, they passed a resolution approving it. We should look at it as cooperation and recognition of the relations of US and Philippines. And it is supposed to be a symbol of peace and understanding. It will show that the Philippines is a staunch ally of the US,” Busa said.

“No one should take credit for it. Not even President Duterte or his camp. Because even the time of President Fidel Ramos, there were already big attempts to bring it back. Since then, every Philippine president then has tried to get it but it just fell on deaf ears because of the barriers to understanding,” the retired Consul General said.

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