Balangiga bells to return to PH, U.S. Embassy confirms

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The United States Embassy says the U.S. defense department intends to return the bells but no date has been set yet. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 12) — The historic bells taken by American forces from a church in Samar during the Philippine-American war will finally make its way home to the country. 

United States Embassy Spokesperson Molly Koscina confirmed that the U.S. Department of Defense intends to return the Balangiga bells, although no specific date has been set yet. 

"We've received assurances that the Bells will be returned to the Catholic Church and treated with the respect and honor they deserve," Koscina said.

In a tweet Sunday, Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Teddyboy Locsin, Jr. said he has also spoken to an informant from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who confirmed the news of the bells' return.

"My friend formerly of the CIA informs me we are getting back the Balangiga bells. Thank you Ambassador Nikki Haley. I told her about this last year, she worked on it," his tweet said.

 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque welcomed the U.S. defense department's announcement, adding that they "look forward to continue working with the United States Government in paving the way for the return of the bells to the Philippines."

Of national heritage

 

The Balangiga bells were regarded as a "veterans memorial object" in the U.S., however, the embassy acknowledged that the instruments carry significant meaning to both countries. 

"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," Koscina said.

President Rodrigo Duterte first made the demand for the bells' return during his second State of the Nation Address in 2017, saying they are "part of our national heritage."

READ: PH demands return of Balangiga bells seized by U.S.

Filipinos used the Balangiga bells as the signal to launch a surprise attack against American troops stationed in Balangiga town in Samar province on September 28, 1901.

The American soldiers retaliated, destroying the town and killing thousands of Filipino soldiers and locals. They seized all three bells from the Balangiga Church and a 1557 cannon as war booty.

Two U.S. lawmakers refused to return the bells until the Philippine government "makes clear, measurable efforts to stop extrajudicial killings in their 'war on drugs.'"

READ: Duterte slams two U.S. solons' refusal to return Balangiga bells

The Balangiga bells have since remained in the hands of the U.S., displayed at the Trophy Park at an air base in Wyoming. The third bell, which historians believe signaled the attack, is at a U.S. military museum in South Korea.