US Returns 'Balangiga Bells' to Philippines after More Than a Century

Two of the bells had been on display for decades at an air force base in Wyoming.

"It is time for healing".

"The history of these bells spans the entire relationship between the United States and the Philippines".

He claims to be a descendant of the Filipino guerrilla fighter who rang the bell in 1901 to signal the historic attack against Americans in Balangiga, Eastern Samar. They are going back to where they belong. Maybe because we human beings live by symbols such as our national flag and in this instance, these bells. It was the greatest single defeat suffered by the Americans during the Filipino-American war.

Local religious officials said the bells would no longer be political footballs and would be used to once again ring in services, which was their original objective.

The Philippines and the USA had since fought together during World War II, aided each other in the Korean War and Vietnam War, and helped each other during the Gulf War.

The bells' contentious history dates to the Philippine-American War, which lasted from February 1898 to July 1902 and left more than 4,000 US troops and about 200,000 Filipinos dead. "In World War II and Korea, our soldiers fought, bled, died and sacrificed side by side", he said. He said it was his honor to help close "this painful chapter in history" by giving back the bells, which are viewed by Filipinos as symbols of national pride.

Giving the bells back was "overwhelmingly viewed as the right thing to do", said Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines.

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"The Bells' return reflects the strong bonds and mutual respect between our nations and our peoples".

Defense Secretary James Mattis has said the handover is an important gesture of friendship and is in the US national security interest.

The Americans retaliated, with a general, Jacob Smith, ordering troops to shoot villagers older than 10 and turn the island into a "howling wilderness", Borrinaga said.

After being colonized by Spain for more than three centuries, the Philippines became a US possession in 1898 in a new colonial era that began with the outbreak of the Philippine-American War.

Manila's push for the bells' repatriation began in the 1990s and has had backing from Philippine presidents as well as from the Catholic Church and historians, but also supporters in the US. The American Legion, which once opposed returning the bells, made a similar resolution, showing further veteran support for the move. Jim Collins, a 9th Regiment veteran, said he hopes the bells will not become a "tourist attraction for anti-American types" or "perceived as an apology for past colonialism".

The Philippine government has been asking for them back since 1993 - and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte made a passionate plea for their return during his state of the union address in 2017.

"To the Filipinos, the Balangiga ambush was an act of defiance from the oppression they suffered from the Americans, a defense of their dignity and their freedom".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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