ORMOC CITY, Leyte — The Balangiga Bells will be back to its original place on Dec. 15, in time for the start of Christmas tradition of nine-day dawn masses, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced on Monday.
Lorenzana said the three bells will arrive at the Villamor Air Base on Dec. 11 with a simple military ceremony.
“We will look at the availability of President Duterte, but the target is to bring back the bells to Balangiga town by Dec. 15 in time for the Misa de Gallo,” Lorenzana told Eastern Visayas officials during the joint meeting of regional councils on development, disaster management, and peace and order held in this city.
Misa de Gallo is a devotional nine-day series of masses practiced by Roman Catholics in the country in anticipation of Christmas.
The country’s defense chief said he got a call from the office of US Defense Secretary James Mattis about the schedule of the bells’ arrival in the country.
The official said refurbishing of the bells is already completed and the artifacts are now ready for transit to the Philippines.
“This is my good news to you that after 117 years, the bells will come where they should belong,” he said.
On August 9, US Defense Secretary James Mattis notified US Congress of its intention to return the Balangiga Bells to the country. The decision followed a year-long consultative process with associated veterans’ organizations and government officials to ensure appropriate steps are taken to preserve the history associated with the bells.
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.
Around 2,500 Filipinos were killed by the US retaliatory attack. The Americans took the Balangiga Bells after they turned the town into a “howling wilderness”.
Balangiga town is about 98 kilometers east of Tacloban City. It is a fourth-class town in Eastern Samar, with a population of 14,085. Sarwell Meniano/PNA-northboundasia.com