visayas.politics.com.ph

Balangiga parish ready for bells’ return

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The Catholic church in this town has already prepared a place to display the Balangiga Bells on.

Balangiga town parish priest Serafin Tybaco, Jr. said the bells will be placed on the newly-built concrete platform outside the church building.

The church built the platform at the Bells Garden, which was the main burial site of 20 Balangiga residents who died during the Sept. 28, 1901 attack.

“In our meetings, there was a consensus that bells will be displayed on this site. We built the structure even before we received the good news because we are positive that those bells would be returned,” Tybaco said.

Church and local government officials will formally meet on Friday to finalize activities for the welcome ceremonies of the Balangiga Bells which were taken by American soldiers more than a century ago.

Following the news of the bells’ return, residents in this town have been excited and grateful to those who helped in realizing their dream of having the bells back in their hometown, according to the priest.

“This is a long-time dream for the people of Balangiga and for the church that the bells should be returned. The Church was not involved in the attack. Residents used the bells to signal the attack without the knowledge of priests,” Tybaco added.

For almost four decades, parish priests who were assigned in Balangiga have filed petitions for the return of the three bells.

“These bells are meaningful for the residents because it symbolizes pride for the people of Balangiga. It signifies a lot, in the religious site it signify the religiosity of the people of Balangiga and on the civil side, it signifies the bravery of the people here,” Tybaco explained.

The return of the bells also thrills the regional office of the Department of Tourism (DOT) because it would boost the tourism arrival of Eastern Samar and Balangiga town, according to DOT Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes.

But more than the excitement and the tourism aspect of the Balangiga Bells, Filipinos should learn the lessons and what the bells symbolize.

“There are lesson that we can learn from this historical event which we can apply in our present time like patriotism and that is an important obligation for us Filipinos. We need to be patriotic to show our love for our country,” Tiopes said.

During the term of President Fidel V. Ramos, he requested then US President Bill Clinton to return the Balangiga Bells, but the US did not heed the plea.

In his State of the Nation Address last year, President Rodrigo Duterte asked the US government to return the bells since these are part of the national heritage of Filipino.

The Balangiga Bells were taken on Oct. 18, 1901 by the 11th Infantry Regiment as war trophies.

Two bells were brought to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base while the third and smaller bell is at the US military base in South Korea. Officials hope to receive the bells before Christmas Day.

The Balangiga Encounter happened on Sept. 28, 1901, when town residents, led by Valeriano Abanador, initiated an attack against US soldiers. The villagers killed 54 American soldiers using bolos. It was the biggest defeat of the foreign troop during the Philippine-American war.

Around 2,500 Filipinos were killed by the US retaliatory attack. The Americans took the Balangiga Bells after they turned the town into a “howling wilderness”.

Balangiga town is about 98 kilometers east of Tacloban City. It is a fourth class town in Eastern Samar, with a population of 14,085. (PNA)