After 177 Years, The Balangiga Bells Return Home
by Jace Amodo, November 23, 2018 10:25am
Photo from US Air Force
"I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States."
This was what General Jacob H. Smith from the United States Army ordered in September 1901 as a retaliation to the Balangiga villagers' silent attack. Samar was turned into "a howling wilderness," leaving around 2,000 townspeople dead and earning him the alias of "Howling Jake." The bells that tolled that horrific day was taken as war booty.
177 years after, the Balangiga bells are coming home. The country's interest for its transference resurfaced after President Duterte, during his State of the Nation in 2017, expressed his sentiment over the empty belfry of Balangiga, knowing well that they are "part of our heritage."
Recovering Balangiga bells goes way back before Duterte and yet all of their efforts seem to fall on deaf ears. On why the US government is finally swayed, we have to thank the support of the veterans organizations—the Veterans of Foreign Wars among them.
The VFW supported the campaign not because of the familiar cry, but because of its different approach. The return of Balangiga bells isn't a war booty for one camp, but for both countries. It is the physical manifestation of the entwined history of the Philippines and the United States.
The Balangiga Bells are expected to return by mid-December 2018. The Catholic church in Balangiga, Samar plans to place the relics on the newly built platform at the Bells Garden, the burial site of residents who died during the well-known battle.