The United States has officially handed over two of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines after more than a century.
“This is a very significant event that we have not only because these bells represent the long history that the Philippines and United States have, but it brings to a close the part of our history, in the Filipino-American war in the 1900s,” Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said today (Thursday, November 15).
The turnover ceremony happened at the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, where Romualdez met with US Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“The Secretary just simply said in not so many words, ‘Ambassador, these bells are now officially going to return to the Philippines’,” Romualdez said.
The Philippine envoy said the two Wyoming bells will be shipped to a facility in Philadelphia for restoration, before being sent on to South Korea, where the third bell is housed at a US military base.
“Hopefully, before the end of year, we should expect all three bells of Balangiga back in the Philippines,” Romualdez added.
Tin a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs extended their gratitude to the US government for the turnover. “Today is a time of solemn remembrance as we pay tribute to all those who gave up their lives during the Filipino-American War.
“We also honour the shared sacrifice of Filipinos and Americans who fought shoulder to shoulder during the Second World War.”
The return of the Balangiga Bells was one of the central themes of President Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address last year.
Historians believe one of the bells was used to signal an attack on American soldiers stationed in Balangiga town in Samar on September 28, 1901.
The ambush left 48 American servicemen dead — the US Army’s worst defeat since the Battle of Little Bighorn of 1876.
In response, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered that Samar be pacified, and Brigadier General Jacob H Smith was ordered to accomplish this task.
In his order to his officers, he said: “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn, the better it will please me… The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness…”
Once the island had been quite brutally pacified, the American troops seized three bells from Balangiga Church, along with a cannon as war booty.