US Returns 'Balangiga Bells' to Philippines after More Than a Century

US Returns 'Balangiga Bells' to Philippines after More Than a Century

"This symbolizes the courage and patriotism of the soldiers whose acts we would like to perpetuate with these bells", he said.

The president did not attend Tuesday's handover, but is due to speak at a ceremony Saturday in Balangiga when the bells - which weigh a combined 408 kilos (900 pounds) - will be given back to the church.

In reprisal, the USA commander Jacob Smith ordered the surrounding island of Samar be turned into a "howling wilderness", resulting in the slaughter of thousands of Filipinos and Balangiga's razing.

WAR SPOILS. The Balangiga Bells return to the Philippines 117 years after these were taken to America by USA troops. It was the greatest single defeat suffered by the Americans during the Filipino-American war.

US soldiers took the three bells in 1901, after a deadly battle in Balangiga, where they had reportedly rang to signal an ambush that killed 48 USA troops. Two of the bells had been displayed for decades at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the third was with the U.S. Army in South Korea.

USA officials handed over the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippine defense chief in a solemn ceremony at Villamor Air Base near the nation's capital of Manila.

"That painful conflict soon ended, and our countries became partners and friends", said US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.

"Having now served over two years as US Ambassador to the Philippines, I am convinced that our relationship remains ironclad, consecrated by the service and sacrifice of the Americans and Filipinos who fought side by side for freedom", Kim said.

A key factor was also major American veterans' associations, including the largest group Veterans of Foreign Wars, dropping their opposition to the bells being given back.

"It's time for healing, it is time for closure, it is time to look ahead as two nations should with a shared history as allies", stated Delfin Lorenzana, Filipino Secretary of National Defense. Army Gen. Jacob Smith infamously ordered his troops to kill any male in the region over the age of 10 and turn the area into a "howling wilderness".

Local religious leaders said they were grateful they were being returned in time to ring for Christmas services.

Almost 50 USA soldiers were killed in the assault on Balangiga on September 28, 1901.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has said the handover is an important gesture of friendship and is in America's national security interest.

"To the Filipinos, the Balangiga ambush was an act of defiance from the oppression they suffered from the Americans, a defense of their dignity and their freedom".

The Philippine government has been asking for them back since 1993 - and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte made a passionate plea for their return during his state of the union address in 2017.

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