For whom the bell tolls

"It is to President Rodrigo Duterte’s credit that he pursued the return of the Balangiga bells."


There is on old movie of the above title which starred Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, if my memory serves me right. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is a war movie which brings to mind the Filipino-American war and the Balangiga bells which were taken by US forces as a war booty.

This was after 50 American soldiers were killed by Filipino soldiers in Balangiga, Eastern Samar in 1902. The Americans called this chapter in Philippine history a massacre because their men were having breakfast in their camp when the Filipinos struck. Everything is fair in love and war, and the Yanks cheated the Filipino revolutionaries out of their victory over the Spanish conquistadores.

Call it ambush or a treacherous raid but the Filipinos did what they had to do against superior and better-equipped enemy. Talk about fair play, the US in the 1898 Treaty of Pais paid Spain pittance even when it knew the Spaniards were no longer in control of the country having been driven out by the Filipino revolutionaries.

How and why did the Americans come into the picture? Admiral George Dewey’s fleet sailed for the Philippines as part of the grand US design to expand its sphere in Asia using the American -Spanish War as a pretext. Dewey defeated the Spanish armada in Manila Bay. The victory earned Dewey that scenic strip by the bay named after him now. It has since been renamed Roxas Boulevard.

The two Balangiga bells are in Cheyenne, Wyoming while another one is in Camp Cloud, a US army camp in South Korea. All three are set to be returned to the Philippines by the end of the year after all three bells are polished and refurbished. A ceremony to mark the bells’ return to the Philippines was held in Wyoming with US Defense Secretary Mathis attending. The group returning the bells will up the other one in Korea after which all three war artifacts would be returned to the Philippines.

It is not known yet whether the bells will be kept in a museum or reinstalled at the Balangiga church in Samar.The parish priest and townspeople want the bells back, and not only because the bells rightfully belong there. They feel the bells would draw Americans and Filipinos alike interested in this war relic from a historical chapter in US-Philippine relations.

It is to President Rodrigo Duterte’s credit that he pursued the return of the Balangiga bells. He was the only Filipino President to mention it in his State of the Nation Address. The US, mindful of what the Balangiga bells, mean to Filipinos must have realized that more than a war booty, the bells also signify the atrocities committed by Americans during their occupation of the Philippines.

From bells too far to a bridge too high

What were officials of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority thinking when they drew up the plan for a 10-meter (33-feet) high footbridge on Edsa and Kamuning? Meant for the safety of pedestrians, the bridge according to critics could instead trigger cardiac arrest among the elderly and even unfit middle-age men whose only exercise is raising their arm while hold a bottle of beer.

The footbridge costing P10 million was supposed to be opened yesterday, but MMDA officials must fear pedestrians dying from heart attack more than being run over by rushing traffic. But then, someone said not to worry about that since vehicular traffic is at a standstill in most parts of Metro Manila.

Topics: Alejandro del Rosario , For Whom the Bell Tolls , Filipino-American war , Balangiga bells
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