Philippines-US relations

US envoy visits Balangiga Bells in Eastern Samar, ‘where they rightfully belong’ 

Sofia Tomacruz
US envoy visits Balangiga Bells in Eastern Samar, ‘where they rightfully belong’ 

HISTORIC BELLS. U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson visits the Balangiga Bells at San Lorenzo de Martir Parish Church with Balangiga Mayor Dana Flynch de Lira and Sangguniang Bayan Member Marciano Deladia Jr.

US embassy in Manila

'These bells are more than just historical objects. They represent the quest for identity, sovereignty, and freedom,' says US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson

MANILA, Philippines – United States Ambassador MaryKay Carlson praised the historic Balangiga Bells as a testament to the “entire arc” of Philippine-American ties during a visit to Eastern Samar on Tuesday, October 18.

The bells, now housed at the San Lorenzo de Martir Parish Church, were “where they rightfully belong,” the envoy said. 

“The return of the bells reflects the strong bonds and mutual respect between our two nations and our peoples,” Carlson said. “These bells are more than just historical objects. They represent the quest for identity, sovereignty, and freedom.”

The historic bells, first taken by American soldiers as spoils of war in 1901, finally returned to the Philippines over a century later, in 2018. 

Former president Rodrigo Duterte had asked the US to return the three bells during his 2017 State of the Nation Address – a request Washington later agreed to, partly to forge a stronger friendship with the Philippines.

Before Duterte, the late former president Fidel Ramos had made the same request to his US counterpart Bill Clinton, to no avail.

During her visit, Carlson commemorated the bells as embodying the history of ties between the US and Philippines, Washington’s oldest ally in Asia.

“These bells have witnessed the entire arc of history between our countries – from the painful conflict of the early 1900s when we were adversaries to the moment four years ago when they were finally returned to the Filipino people with whom we now stand as friends, partners, and allies,” she said. 

Carlson was joined by US Army Colonel Edward Evans during the recent visit. The US envoy also met with Balangiga Mayor Dana Flynch de Lira and parish priests Father Serafin Tybaco and Father Manuel Lunario. 

No ordinary bell

Before they were taken from the Philippines, the Balangiga bells tolled in the church of Balangiga town. They were used to signal a historic siege during the Philippine-American War in 1901, where Filipinos killed 48 out of 74 US troops.

In retaliation, American forces led the Balangiga massacre, a campaign to kill Filipino males over the age of 10 in the town. US military officers ordered their troops to turn Balangiga into a “howling wilderness.” Philippine historians estimated thousands of Filipinos were killed. 

The bells’ return to the Philippines, Duterte said, marked a “restoration of Filipinos’ dignity.” – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.