Balangiga Bells' homecoming: 'Time for healing and closure'

MANILA, Philippines – The formal turnover of the historic Balangiga Bells to the Philippines provides "healing and closure" in relation to one of the bloodiest incidents during the Philippine-American War, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Tuesday, December 11.

"Now they are home and are going back to where they belong. It is a time for healing. It is a time for closure," Lorenzana said in his remarks at the turnover ceremony at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

A US military plane flew in the 3 bells on Tuesday – 4 months after US Defense Secretary James Mattis  wrote the US Congress that the US defense department intends to return the war booty to the Philippines.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea was the highest-ranking government official at the turnover ceremony. President Rodrigo Duterte, who had asked the US government to return the bells last year, decided to skip the historic event but would attend the arrival ceremony for the bells in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, on Saturday, December 15.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim was also at the event and delivered a speech on the significance of the US government's gesture in terms of its long-standing friendship with the Philippines.

During the Philippine-American War, Filipinos in Balangiga town rang the church bells to signal the start of a surprise attack on US soldiers. A total of 48 American soldiers were killed in that attack, considered as the US' worst single defeat in the Philippines. (FAST FACTS: Balangiga Massacre)

In retaliation, US troops killed thousands of FIlipinos in the town, and took the bells as war booty. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.