Lawmakers call on US to return Balangiga bells

TWO members of the House of Representatives demanded that the United States government return the three bells of Balangiga which were taken from the province of Samar as “souvenir” of American troops more than 100 years ago.

Bayan Muna party-list Representatives Teodoro “Teddy” Casino and Neri Colmenares urged the American government to return the bells “to correct a historical wrong” committed against Filipinos during the Philippine-American War.

The Bells of Balangiga were forcibly taken by US military forces from the town of Balangiga in Samar during the occupation of the Philippines by the United States 109 years ago, Casino and Colmenares said in House Resolution No. 236.

“The Filipino people regard the said bells not as tools or spoils of war that should be kept as war trophy, but as historic and religious treasures made for the people of Samar that have become a significant part of Philippine heritage,” the solons explained.

Citing history, the party-list legislators said that the Balangiga bells were used by a Filipino chief of police to signal an ambush against Balangiga, which was the nerve center of guerilla activities in 1901.

The ambush led to the death of 36 American soldiers while the Filipinos suffered 28 deaths and 22 wounded in what historians would later describe as the “single worst defeat” of American forces during the Philippine-American War from 1899 to 1902.

Avenging their loss, American troops retaliated and killed more than 5,000 villagers in Balangiga alone, stealing two church bells with Franciscan Order emblems dated 1863 and 1889, and an English-made Falcon cannon dated 1557.

These are now displayd at the Trophy Park of the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as a smaller church bell dated 1896 is still with the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment in Camp Red Cloud, Korea.

“The bells were the property of the Roman Catholic Church in Balangiga when they were taken by the American forces. The bells should hence be returned to the place where they belong and for the purpose for which they were cast and blessed,” the lawmakers said.

“The use of a religious article, as the Bells of Balangiga were allegedly used to sound an attack, does not by that very act fault the owner and deprive that owner of his property,” they added.

“Returning the Bells of Balangiga and other looted artifacts to the Filipino people would be a gesture of respect and goodwill on the part of the United States of America,” Casino and Colmenares said.

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