US returns 3 church bells seized from Philippines in 1901
Manila, Dec 11: The US on Tuesday returned to the Philippines three church bells seized by American troops as war booty over a century ago.
A US Air Force plane bearing the three historic bells landed in the Philippines in the morning. US officials led by American Ambassador Sung Kim handed over the bells to the country's Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at an Air Force base in Manila.
The church bells were taken by American soldiers as war trophies during the Philippine-American war in 1901.
"It is a most memorable day of our nation's history and we celebrate it with deep gratitude and respect for all those who helped to make this day happen," Lorenzana said during the handover ceremony, expressing hope that the return of the church bells will bring closure to the painful conflict 117 years ago, Xinhua news agency reported.
"The bells of Balangiga will once again peal. They will still remind the people of Balangiga of what happened in the town square more than a century ago, but they would also look at that history with more understanding and acceptance. These peals will be of joy, revelry and remembrance of shared histories and ideals of new beginnings," he said.
Filipinos from Balangiga, a seaside town in Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines, used the church bells to signal an attack against American soldiers at the dawn of September 28, 1901.
Two of the bells had been displayed for decades at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the third was at a US military facility in South Korea.
Several Philippines Presidents and Defence Secretaries had demanded the return of Balangiga bells.
During his second State of the Nation Address in 2017, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte specifically demanded the return of the bells.
"Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage. Please return them. This is painful for us."
Duterte, who was initially scheduled to witness the handover ceremony, did not attend.
After the ceremony in Manila, the three bells will be flown by a Philippines Air Force plane to Eastern Samar for their return to Balangiga town church officials on Saturday.