BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar — After 117 years, the Balangiga Bells are now back in this province and ready for formal handover Saturday afternoon in this town.
The three bells arrived 10:28 a.m. at Guiuan Airport in Eastern Samar on board a Philippine Air Force C-130 plane from Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.
The crates containing the bells were then loaded on board a military truck where it was transported by land from Guiuan town to Quinapondan, a neighboring town of Balangiga.
A staff of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, who requested anonymity, said the bells inside crates were temporarily placed inside the complex of Philippine National Police provincial mobile force company in Quinapondan town.
Officials declined to disclose details on the time of bells’ arrival in Balangiga town.
Bishop Crispin Varquez, representing the Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Borongan, will receive the bells from the Department of National Defense, represented by Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Historian Rolando Borrinaga said the much -awaited repatriation ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday to be witnessed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Among the guests to witness the handover are United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Yong Kim and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles.
“The handover will not be held inside the St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish church, but at the plaza in between the town hall and church so that more people will be able to see the historic event,” Borrinaga said.
The Balangiga Bells will be on display at the church ground’s mini park in Balangiga, Eastern Samar for several months for curious tourist to get a closer look of the religious artifacts.
Contrary to reports, the bells will not mainly be used to call churchgoers for the pre-Christmas dawn masses since the town’s church have three existing bells.
“We are aware that residents and visitors are eager to see how these bells look like. We have to consider that and that is why we will not place those bells yet on vacant belfry,” said Balangiga town tourism, culture and arts officer Fe Campanero.
The official said they will do their best to make sure that nobody will take away the “precious” bells returned to country on Tuesday, 117 years after American soldier took the artifacts as war booties.
“We will install closed-circuit television camera and assign guard round-the-clock since these bells are very precious to us people of Balangiga,” Campanero told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
The Balangiga Encounter happened on Sept. 28, 1901, when 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.
The Americans retaliated by killing 2,500 Filipinos. They took the Balangiga bells after they turned the town into a “howling wilderness”.
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. Roel Amazona/PNA-northbounasia.com