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The Bells of Balangiga as photographed in 1910 at Fort D. A. Russell

Filipinos ask US to return church bells reporters, Manila

October 11 2010

Filipino lawmakers called on the US  government to return three church bells that were taken from a Catholic church in Samar, central Philippines during the American occupation over a hundred years ago.

Representatives Teodoro Casino, Neri Colmenares and Ben Evardone urged the United States to return the religious artifacts "to correct a historical wrong" committed during the Philippine-American War.

The Balangiga Bells were forcibly taken by US military from Balangiga on Samar Island 109 years ago.

"Filipinos don't regard the bells as war trophies. They're deemed as Samar's local historical and religious treasures and a significant part of the Philippine heritage," House Resolution No. 236 states.

The Balangiga bells were used by a Filipino rebel leader to signal an ambush against American troops in 1901. Rebels, disguised as women, smuggled weapons in small coffins into the church to attack Americans. The ambush killed 36 US soldiers, 28 Filipinos and wounded 22 others in what historians described as the "single worst defeat" of American forces during the Philippine-American War from 1899 to 1902.

American troops retaliated by killing over 5,000 villagers in Balangiga and stealing the bells.

"The bells were the property of the Roman Catholic Church in Balangiga when they were taken by the US forces. The bells should be returned to the place where they belong and for the purpose for which they were cast and blessed," the lawmakers said.

Returning the Bells of Balangiga and other looted artifacts to the Filipinos would be a gesture of respect and goodwill on the part of the US.

Meanwhile the Diocese of Borongan moved to recover the bells by organizing a Diocesan Committee on Balangiga Bells to spearhead a lobby in the US Congress on the matter.

Law representative Evardone said the bells have lost historic significance to the Americans, contrary to the Filipino people. The bells "rightly belong" to Balangiga. "We will not stop until the bells will be returned to us," he added.

On Sept. 28, Eastern Samar people marked the 109th year of the Balangiga massacre.

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