Wyoming officials have refused to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines as they are deemed “memorials” to the casualties of the Philippine-American War.
In a statement, the all-Republican delegation comprising of U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, said, “These bells are memorials to American war dead and should not be transferred to the Philippines.”
“We’ve received assurances that the bells will be returned to the Catholic Church and treated with the respect and honor they deserve,” U.S. Embassy press attache Trude Raizen said on Saturday, August 11, in a report from The Philippine Star.
Raizen also emphasized the value of the bells for both Filipinos and Americans.
“We are aware that the Bells of Balangiga have deep significance for a number of people, both in the United States and in the Philippines,” she added.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque even welcomed the announcement from the U.S. Embassy noting that he hopes it would happen but would still wait on the official word.
Two of the bells of Balangiga are at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The third is with the United States Army in South Korea.
A year ago, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte has called for their return.
“They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” the president said.
The story behind Balangiga bells
In 1901, the U.S. Army soldiers took the bells after an attack killed 48 American troops during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. In retaliation, the U.S. ordered its troops to turn Samar into a “howling wilderness.” Over 2,500 Filipinos were killed during the attacks.
The Philippines has been trying to have the bells returned even way back during Fidel Ramos’ administration. Years after, a petition for their return was revived in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Samar was among the islands devastated by the super typhoon.
In 2016, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point sent back a bell also taken in 1901 to the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Bauang, La Union, according to a report on Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for the U.S. military community.
“Bells were routinely taken as souvenirs, but at times they were removed for a military purpose – to prevent them from being melted down to make weapons,” Stars and Stripes said. (AJPress)