United States returns 3 disputed bells taken in 1901 to Philippines

"This symbolizes the courage and patriotism of the soldiers whose acts we would like to perpetuate with these bells", he said.

MANILA, Philippines - Balangiga town resident Nemesio Duran, 81, craned his neck from his seat at the grandstand at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, for his first glimpse of the Balangiga Bells that he had thought he wasn't going to see anymore.

The Bells of Balangiga in Wyoming with Lt Col Joe Sestak, USAF, Retired.

The return of Balangiga Bells on Tuesday signals the closure of a awful chapter between the Philippines and United States after more than a hundred years.

"How could these three bells evoke so much intense emotion among Filipino and Americans?"

Local Filipinos from Balangiga, a seaside town in Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines, used the Church bells to signal an attack against American soldiers at the dawn of September 28, 1901.

Two of the bells were previously installed at a memorial for fallen United States troops at a military base Wyoming, while the third was in a U.S. military base in South Korea.

The bells were taken by US troops as war trophies during the Philippine-American war in 1901 and have been on display at military posts in Wyoming and South Korea. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines.

U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim attended the ceremony held early Tuesday at an air force base in the capital of Manila.

The battles in Balangiga that took place towards the end of the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War marked one of the darkest chapters of U.S. colonialism. The American Legion, which once opposed returning the bells, made a similar resolution, showing further veteran support for the move.

"It's time for healing, it is time for closure, it is time to look ahead as two nations should with a shared history as allies", stated Delfin Lorenzana, Filipino Secretary of National Defense.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has had an antagonistic attitude toward the USA and has revitalized ties with China and Russian Federation, asked Washington in his state of the nation address previous year to "return them to us, this is painful for us".

After being colonized by Spain for more than three centuries, the Philippines became a US possession in 1898 in a new colonial era that began with the outbreak of the Philippine-American War.

Busa said he hopes the return of the bells will inspire Filipinos to start conversations about history. The Americans retaliated by burning the town and killing all male Filipinos aged at least 10 years old.

The bells came to represent the sacrifice American troops had made, even if the war was messy and in some parts dishonorable, said Eric Burke, a historian who had served as the 9th Infantry Regiment's guidon-bearer, shortly after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had called for their return. They are defense treaty allies.

A breakthrough on the bells issue came with an amendment to a USA law banning the return of war relics and memorials to foreign countries.

  • Jon Douglas