It’s been a long time. Depending on one’s timeline, the Balangiga bells’ return after 117 years raises excitement among Filipinos with a sense of self-determination.
The church bells—three taken by the US Army from the town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar as war trophies after the massacre in 1901 during the Philippine American War—are finally being returned.
The return—two bells displayed at the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming and one at the US Army Museum in South Korea—is expected to close a controversial chapter in the shared history of Manila and Washington, who both fought the invading Japanese forces in the 1940s.
The return ends a decades-long quest by Manila, and is, in the eyes of political and diplomatic analysts, expected to bolster bilateral ties.
Of course, we cannot ignore the scenario where US veterans and Wyoming state’s delegation to the US Congress, which opposed the return have become a memorial to the 45 American soldiers killed during a surprise attack on Sept. 28, 1901 in Balangiga.
But we cannot brush off either the number of Filipinos aged 10 and above who were ordered killed—over 2,500 by US media and history books but more than 10,000 by Filipino historians.
The return, expected to be completed in the next few weeks, is expected to heal an “unhealed wound” in the interlaced relations between Washington and Manila.
Analysts have pitched in the thought the return of the bells is a victory long time in coming for the Filipinos although both sides benefit, much differently from actual war.
As US Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “Bells mark time, but courage is timeless.”
Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III himself said “there are no winners and losers here.”