Senate thanks the US for the return of Balangiga Bells

By Senate PRIB

PASAY CITYA, June 1 — The Senate on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, thanked the United States for the return of Balangiga Bells after more than a century since the American soldiers took the three bells from Balangiga town, Eastern Samar.

The Senate adopted Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 653 “expressing the profound gratitude of the Senate of the Philippines for the return by the United States government of the bells and recognizing the efforts of those who facilitated its return.”

Sen. Richard Gordon authored the resolution, with Senators Cynthia Villar, Risa Hontiveros, Ramon Bong Revilla, Joel Villanueva and Imee Marcos made co-authors.

On December 11, 2018, a US military plane carrying the historic bells arrived in the country, exactly 117 years after these were taken by US soldiers as war trophies. The bells were then returned to San Lorenzo de Martir Parish Church in Balangiga, Eastern Samar four days later.

The US government agreed to give up the bells “to forge a stronger friendship and bond” with the Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte asked the US to return the bells during his 2017 State of the Nation Address.

The resolution stated that the return of the bells would not have been possible without the help of former Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and three retired US Navy Officers, also known as “tres marineros” – Rear Admiral Daniel W. McKinnon, Jr., Captain Dennis L. Wright, and Captain Brian V. Buzzell, who led the Initiative and provided the Department of Defense, Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and the Congress of the United States accurate information on the law and history related to the bells’ presence in Wyoming and South Korea.

The US Department of Defense through the efforts of Lieutenant Colonel Theodore T. Liebreich of the United States Army, Dr. Joseph H. Felter, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, returned the Bells of Balangiga.

Historians said the bells tolled in the church of Balangiga town in 1901 to signal the start of a surprise attack against American troops during the Philippine-American War. The Filipinos, armed with bolos,  killed 48 out of 78 American soldiers in Balangiga, handing the US Army one of its biggest defeats at the time. The Americans retaliated with a campaign to maim all Filipino males over the age of 10 in the town. At least 10,000 Filipinos were killed during the retaliatory attack.

After the massacre, Americans took the three bells with Franciscan emblems dated 1863, 1889, and 1896 to serve as war trophies.

Two of the three bells were displayed in the Trophy Park of the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming while the third is at the 9th US Infantry Regiment in Camp Red Cloud Korea;

The bells symbolize Filipinos’ courage to stand up to foreign colonizers, while Americans see them as a memorial in honor of their soldiers who were killed at the time. (Senate PRIB)