Duterte leads Balangiga Bells welcome rites

December 15, 2018
Rodrigo Duterte and Delfin Lorenzana
THE BELLS ARE HOME. President Rodrigo Duterte raises a clenched fist as he rings one of the three Balangiga church bells during a ceremony in Balangiga in Eastern Samar province yesterday, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana looks on. The sleepy central Philippine town of Balangiga erupted in joy on December 15 as bells looted from its church more than a century ago by vengeful US troops were turned over to the community, and rang once again on their home soil. AFP/TED ALJIBE

“THE bells are returned.”

Those were the words of President Rodrigo Duterte as he hailed the return of the Balangiga bells yesterday — ringing  one of them and even kissing it — during a turnover ceremony in the Eastern Samar town.

Duterte arrived at the ceremony shortly before 5 p.m. and witnessed US Deputy Chief of Mission John C. Law hand over the bells’ transfer certificate to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who in turn handed the certificate to Balangiga Mayor Randy Graza.

After the official turnover, Duterte proceeded to the three bells behind him, kissed one of them and — for the first time in 117 years — rung it seven times with a clenched fist in the air, as the crowd exploded into applause and cheers.

“The bells are returned. The credit goes to the American people and the Filipino people period,” Duterte said.

Following the ceremony, Duterte even joked: “So what’s next? I carry the bells [to the church]?” eliciting laughter from the crowd.

In a speech before the turnover, Law said returning the bells to the Philippines “was simply the right thing to do.”

The three bells were taken by American soldiers in September 1901 from an Eastern Samar church after their retaliatory attack on Filipino guerrillas who earlier killed 48 American soldiers in storming the 9th US Infantry Regiment during the war.

Two of the three Balangiga bells used to be installed at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, while the third one is at a US Army museum in South Korea.

On Monday, the bells arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City around 10:30 a.m. via a US Air Force C-130 that departed from a US military base in Okinawa, Japan.