Thanks Mr. President for bringing our bells back

December 11, 2018

THRU this piece,  I would like to thank President Duterte for achieving what other previous Philippine presidents have failed to do: convince the American government to return the historic bells of Balangiga to the country.

Many of my friends in the police and the military said that the former Davao City mayor scored another feat when the United States government yesterday returned the Balangiga bells more than a century after they were taken by American soldiers as war trophies in 1901 during the Philippine-American war.

President Duterte may not be as popular to the elitists with his penchant for using cuss language but to the ordinary Juan and Juana de la Cruz, he is silently but effectively doing his job.

Whether it is fighting drugs, terror and crime and corruption  to bullshitting foreign leaders and personalities who meddle in the country’s affairs, the President has been scoring hits left and right, the latest of which is the return of the bells to their rightful place.

I know for a fact that previous governments have asked the U.S. government to return the bells but it is only President Duterte who demanded the return of the bells during his State-of-the-Nation-Address in July 2017.

Two of the bells were previously installed at a memorial for fallen U.S. troops at a military base in Wyoming while the third was put in display in a U.S. military base in South Korea. Let’s call it pride. The bells were taken by American forces in September 1901 from a Catholic church in Balangiga, after Filipinos killed 48 out of 74 U.S. soldiers.

As a retaliatory attack, U.S. forces razed the town which killed thousands of Filipinos, in what is now known as the infamous Balangiga Massacre.  American troops took the bells as ‘war trophies’ putting a dent on Philippines-U.S. relation ship.

I read this piece from U.S. Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim and I would like to repost part of it. “This morning, a U.S. Air Force plane bearing three historic bells from San Lorenzo de Martir Church in Balangiga will land at Villamor Air Force Base. These bells were taken 117 years ago; later today it will be my honor to return them. Their safe return is thanks to the efforts of U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, supported by President Trump, and is driven by respect for the Philippines, our friend, partner, and ally.”

“It has been a long road home for these bells, which were caught up in the aftermath of the tragic conflict that raged across this archipelago at the turn of the last century. The U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Regiment, whose C Company was garrisoned at Balangiga returned with one of the bells to its home garrison in Sackets Harbor, New York. This bell followed the Regiment to subsequent assignments, most recently residing at a U.S. Army base in South Korea. The two other bells were sent to Camp D.A. Russell in Cheyenne, Wyoming with the 11th Infantry Regiment, where the bells were displayed as part of a memorial to fallen U.S. service members.”

“Good-hearted individuals and groups labored for decades to bring the bells home. Former Presidents, cabinet secretaries, Philippine and U.S. Ambassadors, historians, philanthropists, and many others worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the history of the bells and to advocate for their dignified return,” he said.

“The turning point in this century-long saga came in October of this past year during the 2017 ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting in Clark. Secretary Mattis met with Secretary of National Defense (SND) Delfin Lorenzana to discuss security cooperation and opportunities to further strengthen the U.S.-Philippine defense relationship. At this meeting, SND Lorenzana raised the issue of the “Balangiga Bells.” Later that day, in a meeting with President Duterte, Secretary Mattis stated definitively that it would be his personal initiative to find a way to return these religious artifacts. In the Secretary’s words, “all wars end,” and it was time to heal a wound that had strained the U.S.-Philippines relationship for too long. Following this important meeting, I maintained direct communication with the Secretary and my colleagues and I worked with his outstanding staff to ensure the bells’ swift return.”

“This decision to return the bells is consistent with our values and overwhelmingly viewed as the right thing to do. From World War II to today’s struggle to defeat ISIS and the scourge of terrorism, our militaries have fought together, bled together, at times died together. As your ally and friend, we will forever honor and respect this shared history.

Today, we do not focus on looking back or relitigating a painful chapter in our past but investing in our shared future. In Secretary Mattis’ words, “In returning the Bells of Balangiga to our ally and our friend - the Philippines - we pick up our generation’s responsibility to deepen the respect between our peoples.” Ours is a close friendship, and we do not take it for granted. Strengthening and maintaining it requires sustained commitment and investment. To these bells – the Bells of San Lorenzo De Martir – welcome home. We wish you safe onward travel to Samar and your church in Balangiga.” Thank you Mr. Ambassador.

PRAYERS FOR COL. DE LA ROSA

On a personal note, my family and I are offering our prayers for the speedy recovery of a friend from Philippine Military Academy Class 1991, Police Senior Superintendent Richard de la Rosa who is now confined in a Quezon City hospital. Dela Rosa is currently the deputy director of the Police Security and Protection Group.

Since Monday, dela Rosa’s mistahs led by PSPG director, Chief Supt. Filmore Escobal  and Senior Supt. Yoyong Agnila of the PNP Public Information Office have been hearing a mass with the intention he would be able to  return to good health. I have attended those two masses and wish and pray that dela Rosa would really recover with the help of the Lord Almighty.