Senator Richard J. Gordon welcomed the official turn over by the United States government of the Balangiga Bells, the church bells taken by the US Army from Balangiga, Eastern Samar, in 1901, saying the return of the bells shows the deep respect and friendship between the Philippines and the United States.
“We welcome the return of the Balangiga Bells. In achieving this monumental task, the importance of people to people relationship was highlighted, as well as the can do attitude of our people who worked for the return of the bells and the willingness of the Americans to do the right thing. It also shows the maturity of the respect and deep friendship between our countries,” Gordon said.
“The long-sought campaign for the return of the bells finally succeeded. Returning the bells, which are part of our natural heritage, would finally correct a wrong that has been done to the country,” he added.
The turnover ceremony was held at the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, where Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez joined U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Following the turnover, the two Wyoming bells will be shipped to a facility in Philadelphia for restoration, before sending them to South Korea, where the third bell is located in a U.S. military museum. The three bells are expected back in the Philippines before the end of the year.
Gordon also thanked the US government for recognizing the enduring friendship between the two countries and for honoring the Filipino soldiers who fought for their side during the World War II.
He had worked behind the scenes with retired US Navy Capt. Dennis Wright and Adm. Dan Mckinnon and the Church through his cousin, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, for the return of the bells. Wright and Mckinnon were both stationed in Subic Bay Naval Base when he was Mayor of Olongapo.
The return of the Balangiga bells was among the constant demands of President Rodrigo Duterte from the US government.
Historians believe one of the bells signaled an attack Filipinos launched against American soldiers stationed in Balangiga town in Samar on September 28, 1901. The attack, reportedly in retaliation for oppressive treatment the Filipinos received, killed 48 American military men.
Accounts then said the foreign soldiers destroyed the town in response, killing thousands of Filipinos in what is now called the Balangiga massacre. The American troops seized all three bells from the Balangiga Church, and a 1557 cannon as war booty./senate.gov.ph