Balangiga, Eastern Samar
September 28, 2017

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte joined the Balangigan-ons in their 116th Commemoration of the Balangiga Encounter Day at the municipality’s auditorium in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

The Balangiga encounter transpired on September 28, 1901 when the disgruntled natives of Balangiga, led by its local Police Chief Valeriano Abanador, turned against the American forces and attacked the Company C of the 9th United States (US) Infantry Regiment. The tolling of the Balangiga bells signaled the locals to attack the soldiers, which brought huge casualties to the U.S. Army—considered then as the “worst single defeat” by the U.S. military. In retaliation, U.S. Military General Jacob Smith ordered to reduce Samar into a ‘howling wilderness’ and took the Balangiga bells as its war booty.

As of now, one of the three bells is at the Camp Red Cloud, U.S. Base in South Korea, while the two others are on display at the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at F.E. Warren Air Force Base at Cheyenne, Wyoming in U.S.A.

In his speech, President Duterte said that mentioning the Balangiga story and his call for the return of these bells to the country during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24, 2017 made him emotional. He also added that visiting the municipality gave him a sense of fulfillment.

“I leave your place with a sense of fulfillment. Nakarating din ako dito. But one day, isali ko ito sa message ko to the nation and I will demand for its return,” he said.

President Duterte added that he is hoping that the U.S. Congress will give President Donald Trump the authority to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines as he regarded them as part of the country’s national heritage.

“To them, ano ‘yan, parang war trophy. But if you look at it closely, the cost of so many innocent lives… just return it and we will be happy. We are not angry at you. We just say that those bells touched in the core of our existence as a Filipino,” he humbly pleaded.

President Duterte also officiated a wreath-laying ceremony to the Balangiga monument where a statue of Captain Abanador stood.

“This commemoration is not about the body count or just about remembering a tactical victory. Ang paggunita po nito ay paggunita sa pagkakaisa na pinamalas ng ating mga ninuno para sa isang layunin. Para po sa akin, ito po ang pinakamahalagang mensahe ng pangyayaring ito: na kung may pagkakaisa, kayang lagpasan ang mga pagsubok at kayang gawin ang dapat gawin,” Balangiga Mayor Randy Graza said.

As part of its annual commemoration, the locals of Balangiga held a parade and staged a re-enactment of the Balangiga encounter to remind the youth of the heroism of its local people.

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