cropped-cropped-philippines_people_icon_256.pngThe Bells of Balangiga

What  are the Bells of Balangiga?  What  do they represent?  Why are they  important to the Filipinos? And  Why  did  President  Rodrigo Roa Duterte  demanded the  United  States of A,  to return them to the Philippines in his  State of the Nation  Address (SONA)  nation  on  24  July?

We  would like  to  move  back in time  in  Philippine  history  when  these bells  became  part of  the Filipino heritage.  Majority  of  Filipinos  are not aware  of  their  history,  thus,   answers to the previous questions  are in place.

According to Filipino historians this  was  their  story:

 “On September 28, 1901, Filipino freedom fighters from the village of Balangiga ambushed Company C of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment, while they were at breakfast, killing an estimated 48 and wounding 22 of the 78 men of the unit, with only four escaping unhurt. The villagers captured about 100 rifles and 25,000 rounds of ammunition. An estimated 20 to 25 of the villagers had died in the fighting, with a similar number of wounded.

In reprisal, General Jacob H. Smith ordered that Samar be turned into a “howling wilderness” and that any Filipino male above ten years of age capable of bearing arms be shot. From the burned-out Catholic town church, the Americans looted three bells which they took back to the United States as war booty”.

Balangiga  is  a small  town  in the southern  part  of  Samar.   Those  bells hung  in  the  Church  in Balangiga,  and  they  were  used  by  the  Filipino  freedom fighters  to signal  the  attack  against  the  invaders –  the  9th  U.S.  Infantry  Regiment.  And  as what  had  been told  by  historians,  as a reprisal  to the  villagers  of  Balangiga.

Historians write  that the exact number of Filipinos killed by US troops will never be known.  The 1887  Spanish  census showed  a  population shortfall of about 15,000.  American census of 1903 showed a  shortfall   that  could  have  been due to a disease epidemic and known natural disasters and the rest  could  be  due to combat,  so the exact  number is difficult to determine. In Samar population growth in 19th century Samar was amplified because of an influx of workers for the booming hemp industry,  an influx which certainly ceased during the Samar campaign.

In the 90s  and exhaustive research  was  made by British writer Bob Couttie as part of a ten-year study of the Balangiga Massacre.  Couttie put the figure at about 2,500; David Fritz used population ageing techniques and suggested a figure of a little more than 2,000 losses in males of combat age but nothing to support widespread killing of women and children.  Some Filipino historians believe it to be around 50,000.

The Balangiga massacre was not  the only  event  that  occurred during the Philippine –American war.  Many  had  been written in history.   Though  that  is  not important.  What is important  is the  historical  value  of  the bells for the people of the Philippines,  especially  for Balangiga.  The people  of  that  town  are the rightful owners  of  the  bells.  The bells are  part  of the historical heritage of the Philippines  as  a  whole.  There  is  no denying  that  their  being brought  to the US  was meant  to serve as  the “trophy” the   American  General  “compensation”  for having ordered the burning of the town while the   Filipinos fought  merely for  the purpose  of saving their  freedom  and  dignity  as  people.

At  present,  two of the bells  are in Wyoming  and  the  third  has  been  located in an American  base in South  Korea.  Strange  places  for  such  bells  to  be taken and installed  while  their  ownership  is  clearly  the  Filipinos.

File photos of two bells of Balangiga at F.E. Warren Air Force Base outside Cheyenne, Wyo.,

Many  moves had  been taken  to  recover them  and returned to the  Philippines.  Negotiations had  been  initiated  by  the various government  administrations  of the Philippines  petitioning the return of  the bells.  In the US  no less than  two  than two congressmen  sponsored  a House Resolution in September 2006,  that  finally  “died” in January  2009,  with the sine die    adjournment of the US  Congress.  In  October 2007,  another  move  was attempted  but,  just  the same  as the others,  it  fell  into  deaf ears.

President  Rodrigo Roa  Duterte,  demanding  the United States  to  return  the bells  to  the  Philippines,  because  the Filipinos  OWN   them.  Let  us  just  wait  and  see what  happens  next.


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Teacher, Public Speaking and Life Coach, Book and Poem Writer, Folkloric dancer and choreographer, a father, friendly and an admirer and beholder of natural beauty...God believer..