The Bells of Balangiga…are church bells of the Parish of Balangiga in the Philippines but now displayed on the grounds of F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. How did the bells get there?
Well, in a nutshell, during the Philippine-American War (1901), in the town of Balangiga, located some 400 miles south of Manila, the bells were used by Filipino insurgents to signal a surprise attack on an American garrison in that town that left about 50 Us soldiers dead. This incident led to reprisals, one of which is the razing of several Catholic churches in the area and the confiscation of the Bells of Balangiga…as trophies of war.
For some Americans, the bells, aside from being trophies of war, serve as a memorial for the American soldiers who died from that incident. Thus, the bells are to remain in the possession of US and never to be returned.
Numerous petitions were made to get the bells back to where they really belong, which is the Diocese of Borongan where the Parish of Balangiga is, but it seems that the tragedy of that event has a much heavier weight than the purpose of usage and legitimacy of possession.
Please do not get me wrong. I am a Filipino living here in America and my heart goes to those who suffered a tragic death. I do not know how many Filipino casualties there were but it is enough for me to grieve knowing that there are at least 5O human lives lost. Be that as it may, whether for an American or Filipino, that fateful encounter proved that war, which is not always inevitable, is something that has nothing good to offer but an open door for death. And even a century after, the ghost of that war remains to continue to hunt and divide. But then again, this is not about patriotism or whose side do we belong, just simply on the matter of who own the bells and how the bells are to be used.
Provided the fact that they were used to signal an attack that fateful incident, whether with the knowledge or cooperation of the parish priest or not, the act of the priest, if he is guilty of such, should not fault the real owner of the bells nor does the act entitles the victor to deprive the real owner of the bells of his rights to the property, which is the Bishop of the Diocese then, and now the Most Rev. Leonardo Y. Medroso, D.D., who by the way, have nothing to do with the incident.
I couldnt agree more when Bishop Leonardo Medroso of the Diocese of Borongan said, “The bells of Balangiga, if they remain there, will always be a reminder of that fateful encounter and therefore fuels grudges and hatred. Let us do away with grudges and hatred. Return the bells to Balangiga. We will use them to call people to prayer.”
Please join me in prayers that the bells may toll again in the Philippine soil, that they may serve the people by reminding them of the merciful and loving God than the pain and casualties of war.