Philippines cheers return of church bells seized by US 117 years ago
December 15 2018 05:35 PM
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) gestures as he rings one of the three Balangiga church bell
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) gestures as he rings one of the three Balangiga church bells during a ceremony in Balangiga in Eastern Samar province


Residents of an eastern Philippine town on Saturday cheered as three revered church bells seized by US troops as spoils of war returned home after more than a century.

Many residents were tearful, while other townsfolk and children waved golden bell-shaped signs as they gathered at a public plaza in the town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar province.

A live broadcast of the event showed a marching band parading around the town ahead of the turnover ceremony, to be attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The bronze-alloy bells, revered in the Philippines as a symbol of resistance to US colonization and the struggle for independence, arrived in Balangiga on Friday, but were not unveiled to the public.

‘No amount of words can describe what the (people of Balangiga) feel right now,’ said Randy Graza, the town's mayor. ‘We are overwhelmed with joy and happiness. We share this with you, our bells, our story, our history.’  Graza said he and the residents of Balangiga were hopeful that the bells would not toll again for the same reasons that they rang out in 1901.

The bells, two of which weigh about 270 kilograms each and one about 135 kilograms, were used to signal an attack by Filipino insurgents against US soldiers occupying Balangiga.

More than 40 US soldiers were killed in the attack, which prompted US general Jacob Smith - according to historical accounts - to order his men to turn Balangiga into a ‘howling wilderness’ and shoot any local male over 10 years old.

Two of the bells had been displayed at the Francis E Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The third bell was housed with a US Army regiment in South Korea.

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