After return of Balangiga Bells, will Duterte visit U.S.?

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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After return of Balangiga Bells, will Duterte visit U.S.?
President Duterte will not visit the US 'until the Bells of Balangiga are returned,' Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr recalls telling US Ambassador Nikki Haley

After the United States announced it is returning the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr remembered a question he got from America’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

“Nikki Haley asked me last year, ‘Why is your president still not coming to the US?'” Locsin said, recalling the time when he was still the Philippines’ permanent representative to the United Nations.

“I said, ‘He never will until the Bells of Balangiga are returned.'”

“She took note and added when we get the bells, no more excuse not to accept Trump’s invitation,” Locsin recalled in a tweet on Thursday, November 15.

The Balangiga Bells were used in 1901 to signal a historic siege where Filipinos outsmarted and killed 48 out of 74 US troops, prompting American forces to retaliate and kill 2,500 Filipinos. 

This is now known as the Balangiga Massacre – a dark episode in history that angers President Rodrigo Duterte, who had demanded that the US return the Balangiga Bells.

On Wednesday, November 14, US Defense Secretary James Mattis formally announced in Wyoming that the US is returning to the Philippines the Balangiga Bells. The Philippines said that Filipinos “appreciate this gesture.”

It remains to be seen whether the Philippines’ appreciation of the historic gesture would prompt Duterte to finally accept Trump’s invitation.

Duterte had, on many occasions, expressed his dislike for the United States, particularly under the administration of then-president Barack Obama who was critical of his war on drugs. 

Even with the assumption of Trump, Duterte declared in July last year that he would never visit “lousy” America.

“There will never be a time during my term when I will be going to America or thereafter,” he told reporters then, while responding to questions about a US Congress human rights commission hearing where groups assailed his bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

Will the return of the Balangiga Bells help change his mind? –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering 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