U.S. vows to help resolve Balangiga bells issue

MANILA, Philippines – The United States vowed to help resolve the issue of the historic Balangiga bells, which Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte demanded from America during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).

"We are aware that the bells of Balangiga have deep significance for a number of people, both in the United States and in the Philippines," the US embassy in Manila said in a statement on Tuesday, July 25.

"We will continue to work with our Filipino partners to find a resolution," the US embassy added.

The Balangiga bells, once found in Balangiga Church in Eastern Samar, had been taken by the Americans as spoils of war.

Signaling a historic siege, the bells led to the US military's so-called worst single defeat in the Philippines. In what is known as the Balangiga Massacre, locals outsmarted and killed 48 out of 74 US troops in 1901.

"Give us back those Balangiga bells," Duterte said in his second SONA on Monday. "They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage."

"Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit 'yan sa amin (Please return it. That is painful for us)," he also said. 

Duterte's request comes as he also slams the US for supposedly meddling in his war on drugs, bringing ties between Manila and Washington to their lowest point in years.

As early as 1994, then Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos already made the same request to his US counterpart Bill Clinton, to no avail. 

Years later, then Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay quoted a US governor as saying he was against "any efforts to deconstruct our war memorials that honor our fallen soldiers." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.