All three Balangiga Bells are now in Japan on the eve of their official return to the Philippines tomorrow, Tuesday, the United States Embassy in Manila said Monday.
US Air Force airmen prepared the Balangiga Bells for transport to the Philippines at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.
US Embassy press attache Molly Koscina said the war artifacts’ return was a clear demonstration of the US commitment to its alliance, partnership and friendship with the Philippines.
“The return of the bells is the end of many years of efforts by many, many different people to ensure the bells’ return to the church where they were taken,” she said.
“It required negotiations and lots of efforts and even overcoming legal obstacles to make it happen, and there are many people to thank for the return of the bells, including Secretary [James] Mattis and [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana.”
The three bells were taken by US soldiers from the San Lorenzo de Martir Church in Balangiga town in Eastern Samar.
They took the bells in retaliation for the killing of 48 of their comrades and the wounding of 12 others from the Charlie Company of the 9th Infantry Regiment, which happened following an ambush by Filipino fighters on Sept. 28, 1901 during the Philippine-American war.
Then US army commander General Jacob Smith advised his men to turn the Balangiga bells into a “howling wilderness,” and parallel to the killing of all male Filipinos aged 10 and above. The US soldiers then burned the entire Balangiga town.
The US soldiers then took the three bells from Balangiga as “war trophies.” One of the bells is in Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, while the other two are being kept at the Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The meeting between Mattis and Lorenzana in 2017 was the “breakthrough” that made the bells’ return possible, Koscina said.
“I think the breakthrough was Secretary Mattis and Secretary Lorenzana’s meeting last October,” she said.
“Later that same day, Secretary Mattis met with President [Rodrigo] Duterte, and in that meeting Secretary Mattis committed to making it his personal intent to do all he could do to return the bells.” PNA with Rey E. Requejo and Francisco Tuyay