MANILA – The Bells of Balangiga that American soldiers seized as war booty in the 1900s and are currently placed in Wyoming, United States are expected to begin their journey back to the Philippines after a military ceremony on Nov. 14.
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez will meet with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Wyoming to attend the event.
An announcement will be made on Wednesday, Nov. 14 (Manila time) on the exact arrival date of the bells in the Philippines and other details about the ceremony.
“I will be in Wyoming with Secretary Mattis on Nov. 14. We will have [an] official release after that formal event,” Romualdez told GMA News.
Mattis had previously notified the US Congress that the department plans to return the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines.
In 1901 American soldiers killed thousands of Filipinos, including women and children, in the town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar in response to the killing of 48 US soldiers by rebels during the war between the two countries.
Historical accounts said one of the bells was used to signal the surprise attack by Filipino fighters against American soldiers.
Despite decades of close ties between the two countries and a tight military alliance, the United States’ refusal to return the bells has long been a bone of contention, raised strongly by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Two of the bells are at the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, while the third is part of a traveling museum and is reportedly at a US base in South Korea.
President Rodrigo Duterte seemed cautiously optimistic about the possibility that the Balangiga bells will be returned to the Philippines.
The government welcomes “any movement” with regard to the return of the bells, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Tuesday.
“Given that the … bells have not yet been turned over to the Philippine government, we are withholding any further comment on the matter until the last bell has been properly delivered to the country,” said Panelo.
“In the words of the President himself: ‘It ain’t here until it’s here,’” the spokesman added.
Duterte himself demanded for the return of the bells, explaining in his 2017 State of the Nation Address that they form part of the country’s patrimony and they were taken from a church in Balangiga, Eastern Samar at the expense of the lives of thousands of Filipinos.
In August the President renewed his call for the return of the bells as he raised the question on whether the passage of time can “cure an injustice.” (GMA News)