Citing persistent requests from Eastern Samar residents, President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to attend the turnover ceremony for the Balangiga bells on Saturday.
“The President has made changes in his schedule of activities to join the Filipino community in welcoming the return of the bells,” Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
While the President considers his physical presence at the ceremonial turnover an added attraction to the event, he gives more importance to the fact that after 117 years, the Balangiga bells -- which symbolize the bravery and patriotism of the Filipinos who refused to be subjugated by a foreign power and shed blood to assert the sovereignty of our country -- have been returned to their origins where they properly belong. The bells are now indeed home,” Panelo added.
The latest statement was issued a few hours after Panelo said the President will not attend the ceremony “because of pressing matters of governance requiring his immediate attention.”
The Balangiga bells, taken by American soldiers in 1901 as a war trophy, have been finally returned to the Philippines on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone has expressed strong objection to the proposal to put the Balangiga Bells to the National Museum.
“The bells should be placed in the rightful place where they belong -- the bell tower in Balangiga church,” Evardone said.
The solon stressed that these bells are considered religious artifacts and owned by the Balangiga Church in Eastern Samar.
“While we respect and appreciate the sincere desire of some to highlight the significance of the bells by placing one of them in the national museum, I still believe that their role in our country’s history will not be diminished if they are placed in the Balangiga church,” he said.
“We should also respect the decision of the Catholic church on the issue,” he pointed out.
With Jester Manalastas