Return of Balangiga Bells heralds US-PH ties' future: envoy

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

December 11, 2018, 3:04 pm

HISTORIC RETURN OF BALANGIGA BELLS. Military personnel arrange the three Balangiga bells upon arrival at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Tuesday (Dec. 11, 2018). After 117 years, the bells, taken as war booties by US troops during the height of the Philippine-American War, have returned to the country. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)


MANILA -- As the United States and the Philippines "closed a painful chapter" in their history with the return of the Balangiga Bells, the two nations' ties are poised to grow even stronger from its already ironclad relations, Ambassador Sung Kim said Tuesday.

"The return of the Bells of Balangiga lets us reflect on the US-Philippine relationship -- where we have been, where we are, where we are going," he said during the arrival ceremony of the bells at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

Kim said the war artifacts' repatriation demonstrates Washington's determination to honor the past and the sacrifices made together by Filipinos and Americans.

"And it heralds our bright future as friends, partners, and allies," he stressed.

Since former President Fidel V. Ramos first raised the issue of the bells with then US President Bill Clinton in 1993, Kim said "virtually every Philippine president" has pressed for the bells’ return.

When President Rodrigo R. Duterte made an appeal for the bells’ return during his 2017 State of the Nation address, Kim said he was there and "heard his passionate call loud and clear."

Kim said the chief executive, who then followed up with a personal appeal to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, recognized that returning the bells is "the right thing to do."

On Tuesday, the three Balangiga Bells arrived in Manila from the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. Duterte is expected to personally see the delivery of the bells back to Eastern Samar on Saturday (Dec. 15).

Following the "Balangiga Massacre" in 1901, the bells were taken as war booty from Balangiga’s San Lorenzo de Martir Church. (PNA)