The United States government on Thursday announced the official return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines 117 years after it was taken as war booty from a town church in Eastern Samar.
In a statement, the Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) welcomed the gesture, which signals an end to the long years it appealed for the bells’ return.
“The Philippine Government and the Filipino people appreciate this gesture. Today is a time of solemn remembrance as we pay tribute to all those who gave up their lives during the Filipino-American War,” DFA Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said in a statement.
The announcement was made by Defense Secretary James Mattis during the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming which was attended by Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.
In returning the bells of Balangiga to the country, Mattis said the US picks up this generation’s responsibility to deepen the respect between the American and Filipino people.
“History teaches us that nations with allies thrive. 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, linking the Western people, the great State of Wyoming and people in Philippines,” he said.
“We return the bells with consideration of our present but also with utmost respect of our past,” he added.
Romualdez said the announcement marks a closure to the part of history that the two nations had in the 1900s.
“This is a very significant (event) that we have today, not only because these bells represent the long history that the Philippines and the United States had, but it brings to a close a part of our history — the Filipino-American War in the 1900s,” he said.
“Of course, many people died in that war and we honor those people, but more than that, we also honor those people who died in the World War II and the many wars that we fought with the US. The significance of this event is the fact that we honor those and the kind of relationship that we have with the US,” he added.
According to Romualdez, the bells are expected to be shipped back to the Philippines by end of 2018.
The two war artifacts will be refurbished in a facility in Philadelphia and transferred to one of the US Air Bases in South Korea, where the third bell is housed, before its transit to the Philippines.
“Hopefully, before the end of the year we should expect these all three bells from Balangiga back in the Philippines,” Romualdez ended. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora /PNA)