It’s The Right Thing To Do: US Should Return the Bells of Balangiga


(left to right): Will Dix and Dale Asis attending the Chicago Philippine Consulate Philippine Independence Day event, June 14, 2018

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.

Philippine Independence Day June 12

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).

Balangiga Church, Balangiga, Samar (June 2018 photo)

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).

Balangiga statue depicting the Balangiga Massacre (June 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.

political cartoon during the Philippine American War (courtesy of The Forbidden Book by Ignacio, 2004)

political cartoon during the Philippine American War (courtesy of The Forbidden Book by Ignacio, 2004)

 

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.[15][16] 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.

Depiction of Balangiga Massacre, painting at Tanuan, Batangas (August 2017)

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.

The Church Bells of Balangiga currently in Ft. Russell, WY

The Church Bells of Balangiga in Ft. Russell, WY

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.

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About daleasis

President of the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide
This entry was posted in history, Philippines, Youth leadership development and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to It’s The Right Thing To Do: US Should Return the Bells of Balangiga

  1. I believe that there should be a Filipino community discussion on the issue of WHY THE BELLS FROM BALANGIGA, SAMAR should/or should not be returned. 1) Does the church in Samar want the bells back? 2) Who in the US Army is responsible to return them to Samar? Do the relatives of any survivors of Company C of the Ninth Infantry Division who were massacred Sept. 28, 1901 want these returned? 3) Who really speaks to the issue of why it should be returned? 4) what is the symbolism to returning the bells?

    I propose a community discussion because I am totally unclear on what value returning these bells have in 2018, when taken in 1901 by those who survived the massacre of US soldiers, described in the marker as “bolo tribesmen”. A reputable historian would be valuable as well for getting the facts of the issue.

    • daleasis says:

      Hello Ate Juanita,

      Kumusta na po? Thank you for responding to my blog entry. I’m glad that this entry resonated with you. The US should not have taken the bells in the first place. In 1901, the US Army retaliated so forcefully against the Balangiga natives. They murdered every male over the age of 10 years in town. It is estimated that were 34,000 to 220,000 Philippine casualties with more civilians dying from disease and hunger brought about by war. (For Whom The Balangiga Bells Toll, Huffington Post, April 2015).

      Returning the bells has a precedent. In 2000, the US Department of Defense returned a 15th-century Buddhist temple bell — a Japanese national treasure back to the temple in Okinawa. Maj. Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr. took the bell as a war booty and which he in turn donated it to the Virginia Military Institute, his alma mater. The bells were returned to its rightful place in Okinawa (New York Times, April 2000).

      A community discussion would be helpful. However, Filipino Americans would be more helpful if they write to their US Congressperson and US Senator to return the Bells of Balangiga. It’s the right thing to do. Maraming salamat po! Thank you for being engaged in this forgotten piece of history of the Philippine American War.

      Sincerely,
      Dale

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