Balangiga Auditorium, Balangiga, Eastern Samar
December 15, 2018
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, with his one clenched fist raised in the air, rang one of the three Balangiga bells as he served witness to its official handover in a ceremony at the Balangiga Auditorium in Eastern Samar.
United States Deputy Chief of Mission John Law handed over the Transfer Certificate of the three Balangiga bells to Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana of the Philippines. From Secretary Lorenzana, the Transfer Certificate was given to Balangiga Mayor Randy Graza on behalf of the people of the municipality.
“You know, the bells are returned and it was really because of the fervent prayers of the entire Filipino nation. Nobody but nobody can claim a singular credit for the generous act of the Americans. The bells are returned. The credit goes to the American people and to the Filipino people, period,” President Duterte said in a crowd composed of Balangigan-ons, national and local government officials, clergy and parishioners, U.S. military veterans and officials, among others.
He added that this breakthrough is the result of the optimism, solidarity, and patriotism of the key stakeholders who campaigned for the return of the bells.
“The homecoming of these artifacts is truly a milestone in the shared and meaningful history of the United States and the Philippines, and heralds a new and more vibrant chapter in our bilateral relations. More than just a part of the Balangiga Church, these bells are a significant element in our country’s religious and historical narrative. They are an enduring symbol of our history and treasure,” the Chief Executive stressed.
Likewise, he urged the Balangigan-ons and the Filipino people to ensure the protection of these gems and to further preserve the culture and history of the country.
“I congratulate the Filipino people for forging a history that [we] could all forever be proud of. I am sure that our ancestors are celebrating with us here on this remarkable victory and that does not only bring back the glory of the town of Balangiga, but also contributes in the full restoration of our dignity as a Filipino,” he said.
After the turnover ceremony, Most Reverend Leonardo Medroso D.D., Bishop Emeritus of Tagbilaran, officiated a mass at the Parish Church of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, for the Balangigan-on community.
The Balangiga bells arrived at the municipality on December 14, 2018 and welcomed by the ecstatic cheers of the people.
President Duterte aired his call on the return of the bells during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) and also took time to join in the 116th Commemoration of the Balangiga Encounter Day at the municipality’s auditorium on September 28, 2017.
These Balangiga bells were taken by the American troops as ‘war booties’ after the encounter on September 28, 1901. For more than a century, the two bells were kept at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base at Cheyenne, Wyoming in the U.S.A., while the smallest bell was at the regimental museum of Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu, South Korea.
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