MANILA, Philippines – The United States embassy in the Philippines said the Balangiga Bells are currently in Japan, ahead of their return to the country.
"All the 3 bells are together right now. They are in Okinawa, Japan," US embassy spokesperson Molly Koscina confirmed on Monday, December 10.
The bells are being kept in a crate at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, guarded by US Air Force personnel.
Two of the bells had been at the FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, while the other one had been at Camp Red Cloud, an American base in South Korea.
The bells from Wyoming were first brought to Philadelphia to be restored, before beginning the journey back to the Philippines.
All 3 bells will be turned over to the Philippines at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Tuesday, December 11.
The Balangiga Bells were used to signal a historic siege during the Philippine-American War in 1901, where Filipinos killed 48 out of 74 US troops.
In revenge for the US' worst single defeat in the Philippines, the American forces led the Balangiga Massacre, where 2,500 to 10,000 Filipinos were killed.
The bells were taken by the Americans as spoils of war.
As two of the bells were part of a US service memorial in Wyoming, replicas will be made to replace the original ones. These will be made in the US, Koscina said.
'Time to come home'
According to the US embassy, the return of the bells shows how important it is for Washington to maintain its good relations with Manila.
"Return of the bells really is a demonstration of US commitment to the friendship and partnership and the alliance that our two countries enjoy. It is important to note that every step of maintaining that relationship is important," Koscina said.
She also said the return of the bells is the result of "decades-long" worth of work by government officials and advocates, both in the US and in the Philippines.
Koscina added that legal hurdles and US veterans' organizations opposing the return of the bells were among the challenges that the US government faced.
"It's time for the bells to come back, but not due to any particular event or any particular statement. People have been working for this for many, many years," she said.
Duterte, who has pivoted from Washington to Beijing, earlier demanded that the US return the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines.
Duterte was not the first president to ask for the return of the bells. In 1994, then-president Fidel Ramos made the same request to his US counterpart, Bill Clinton, to no avail.
In 2014, more than 3,000 online petitioners also urged the US to return the Balangiga Bells. When then-US president Barack Obama visited the Philippines that year, however, the US leader made no mention of the matter. – Rappler.com