On June 14,2018, Will Dix and I attended the Philippine Consulate of Chicago’s Philippine Independence Day event at the offices of the Philippine Consulate in Chicago. Will and I got to wear our barong, embroidered formal shirts and considered the national dress of the Philippines.
The Philippines proclaimed its independence from its colonial masters, Spain and the US, on June 12, 1898. However, the country’s path to independence was complicated and arduous. Part of that fight for independence was the war between the Philippines and the US from 1898 to 1902. In 1901, the townsfolk of Balangiga, Samar launched one of the few successful surprise attacks against the Americans, claiming more than 40 US soldiers. In reprisal, the US Army murdered every male over the age of 10 years in town during which the church bells were taken to Wyoming (For Whom The Balangiga Bells Toll, Huffington Post, April 2015).
In 2018, it’s about time the US return the bells to Samar. The US should not keep them as war booty. On February 20, 2018, the US Ambassador to the Philippines even said, “that this would be the right thing to do” (ABS CBN News, February 20, 2018).
On May 2018, I visited the Balangiga Church and the statue in front of the church plaza depicting the massacre. I was surprised myself to learn about this forgotten part of history (Ignacio, The Forbidden Book, 2004). I always thought the US was helpful and benevolent towards its former colony, the Philippines.
In 1898, the conflict arose when the First Philippine Republic objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain, ending the Spanish–American War. The war was a continuation of the Philippine struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution. It is estimated that were 34,000 to 220,000 Philippine casualties with more civilians dying from disease and hunger brought about by war.
At the end of the US Philippine War, soldiers of the 11th Infantry brought two church bells from Balangiga back to the base where they were stationed at the time—Fort D.A. Russell outside Cheyenne, now F.E. Warren Air Force Base. A third bell from the Balangiga church, owned by the 9th Infantry, remains at the U.S. Army’s Camp Red Cloud, Uijeongbu, South Korea. These bells need to go back home to Samar. It’s about time and the right thing to do.
In August 2018, I will travel back to Samar with young Filipino Americans as part of the 2018 NEXTGEN Program. I will take them to visit the Balangiga Church and let them know about this forgotten part of Philippine American history. And perhaps they would join me in the chorus to demand the return of the bells of Balangiga. It’s the right thing to do.