Filipino and American government officials witness the turnover of the bells at Villamor Airbase.(PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)
MANILA — The three Balangiga Bells, taken as war booties by US troops during the Philippine-American War, have returned home after 117 years Tuesday morning.
The American C-130 “Hercules” cargo aircraft transporting the historic bells landed at Villamor Air Base, Pasay City around 10:30 a.m. that departed from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.
The bells were formally received by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana from US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Yong Kim and was witnessed by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Southeast Asia Joseph Felter and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.
The Balangiga Bells will begin the journey home to the local parish of Balangiga in Eastern Samar where it is expected to arrive by Dec. 15, Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.
The return of the items was a result of the successful high-level bilateral talks between US Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Lorenzana, following the pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte in his 2017 State of the Nation Address.
Two of the three bells used to be enshrined at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming while the third bell was at Camp Red Cloud in South Korea.
Over a century ago, American soldiers took the bells from Balangiga town’s church as war trophy. The bells’ ringing signaled the attack by the villagers against the invaders.
The Balangiga Encounter happened on Sept. 28, 1901, when town residents led by Valeriano Abanador initiated an attack against US soldiers.
The villagers killed 54 American soldiers using bolos. It was the biggest defeat of the foreign troop during the Philippine-American war. But the Americans killed around 2,500 Filipinos when they retaliated and took the Balangiga bells after.