The Balangiga Massacre monument
The people of Balangiga, Eastern Samar – about one and a half hour drive away from Tacloban – commemorated the 107th Anniversary of the Balangiga Encounter of September 28, 1901 with the clamor for its unreturned bells resounding in almost muted silence.
This year’s commemoration program, however, was held on September 30 to coincide with the visit of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the municipal plaza where the P6-million Balangiga Encounter Monument and Memorial Library designed by National Artist Napoleon Abueva now stands.
As in previous years, hundreds of people flock to Balangiga to witness the commemoration rites of the event in 1901 in which Filipino revolutionaries almost wiped out the entire American detachment posted in the area at the time. In retaliation, the Americans “burned” Samar for six months and took with them the Balangiga church bells as war trophies.
For years, the continuing wish has been for the return of the bells to its original and rightful owner, the Philippines. The Bells of Balangiga which are now at the “Trophy Park” of the Warren Airforce Base in Wyoming, belong to the Church for the use of the people of Balangiga.
Some time ago, representation was made by the Philippine delegation led by former President Fidel Ramos and Ambassador Raul Rabe, supported by some American legislators, for the return of the bells. This resulted in a compromise position, namely, to have the two bells recast and then to give one original and one replica to each country. This is the position that is accepted and supported by the members of the United States Catholic Conference (USCC). The Diocese of Borongan, with much reluctance, agreed to this arrangement.
However, to this date, the Balangiga Bells remain in Wyoming.
(Reference: PIA Press Release 2008/09/28)
The Balangiga Encounter Monument and Memorial Library, inaugurated on its 102nd anniversary on Sept 28, 2003:
The renovated Balangiga Church of today: