The Bells of Balangiga:
An Appeal for Support
By LEONARDO Y. MEDROSO, D.D.
Bishop, Diocese of
September 30, 2004
"And since these bells belong to the Roman
Catholic Church of the Parish of Balangiga, they should be returned to the Catholic community of Balangiga..."
The Diocese of Borongan is bringing to the attention of the entire
Philippine Church its struggle to recover the bells which one hundred years
ago were taken as war booty from the church in Balangiga town. In its urgent
appeal for support in this struggle, the Diocese is asking the bishops, the
clergy and religious, and the lay faithful throughout the country to take a
close look into the issue of the Balangiga Bells, and thereby appreciate its
implications as a nation and as a Church.
In a nutshell, the Bells of Balangiga are Church bells. They are religious
artifacts with considerable significance in the Catholic tradition. Among
many other uses, they call people to prayer and worship. As such they are
inappropriate trophies of war. Hence, they should be returned to the place
where they belong and to the purpose for which they were cast and blessed.
And since these bells belong to the Roman Catholic Church of the Parish of
Balangiga, they should be returned to the Catholic community of Balangiga.
The US government will not give up the bells. Its reason is simple: the
bells are the property of the US government. Capt. Kathleen Cook of the
Warren AFB public information office puts it this way: "The Catholic Church
has no say in the matter. The bells are property of the US government. Only
Congress can change the disposition of those bells" (Marguerite Herman,
Wyoming Catholic Register, December 1997)
These Church bells, seized as war booty in 1901 by the US troops in the
Philippines and presently enshrined at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne,
have taken on a special meaning both for the people of the Philippines, who
seek their return, as well as those in the United States of America, for
whom they are sacred to the memory of the troops who died in Samar nearly a
Currently the matter is under congressional investigation. Recently, Sen.
Craig Thomas (R‑Wyo), again attempted to stonewall the return effort by
introducing language in the Defense Authorization Bill, S. 1055, that would
prohibit "the return of veterans' memorial objects to foreign nations
without specific authorization law." Without expressly naming either the
object or the country this refers to the Bells of Balangiga.
The Bells of Balangiga issue goes back to the American involvement in the
Philippines, which began with the Spanish‑American War in 1898. The
Philippines was then a Spanish possession. After the defeat of Spain,
however, the United States decided to retain possession of the Philippines
rather than grant the nation its independence. An insurrection followed,
which lasted more than three years and cost the lives of 4,200 US troops and
some 20,000 Filipino combatants. Thousands more Filipino died as a result of
famine and disease caused by the war.
The most infamous incident of the war occurred on September 28, 1901, in the
town of Balangiga, located some 400 miles southeast of Manila on the island
of Samar. The church bells in Balangiga were reportedly used to signal a
surprise attack by Filipino insurgents, many using machetes on an American
garrison posted in the town.
The attack left more than 50 US soldiers dead and led to American reprisals.
It was so severe that they resulted in the reprimand of the American
commander, Gen. Jacob Smith. But it was also effective as it shortened the
insurrection to six months.
Among the actions taken by the American troops during the reprisals was the
razing of several Catholic churches in the area and the confiscation of the
Bells of Balangiga as trophies of war. They now hang in a "trophy park" at
the Warren Air Force Base.
1. The Diocese of Borongan, to which the Parish
of Balangiga belongs, lays rightful ownership to the Bells of Balangiga.
Bishop Leonardo Y. Medroso, in his letter to Bishop Joseph Hart of Cheyenne
Diocese, wrote: "I, however, resolve to write you this letter of request for
the simple fact that my people in the town of Balangiga have more reasons to
reclaim and recover the possession of the said bells. Records
tell that the bells were property of the local church in Balangiga when they
were taken by the American forces. As such they kept my people in touch with
lives of their parents and grandparents, their past, their origin, their
religious sentiments, their culture. The market value of the bells may not
be that high, but the collective sentiments that they have borne and
symbolized are priceless. It is for this that through the years my people in
Balangiga have been longing to retrieve their church bells.
2. The American legions, the Amvets (American
military veterans), and some state legislators would not have any part of
that claim. They say that they belong to the US government as they are
legitimate spoils of war. These bells enshrined the memories of their dead
ones, mercilessly massacred by treacherous attacks.
3. The Philippines delegation, led by former
President Fidel Ramos and Ambassador Raul Rabe and supported by some
American legislators, has taken a compromise position, namely, to have the
two bells recast and then give one original and one replica to each country.
This is the position that is accepted and supported by the members of the
United States Catholic Conference (USCC). The Diocese of Borongan, with much
reluctance, agrees to this arrangements.
During its Plenary Assembly held on July 10‑12, 1999, the Catholic Bishops'
Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has taken the position of the Bishop of
But the American veterans are adamant. The Bells of Balangiga have to remain
in F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In fact, this is the
reason for the action of Sen. Craig Thomas in introducing language in the
Defense Authorization Bill, S. 1055, that would prohibit "the return of
veterans' memorial objects to foreign nations without specific authorization
The struggle to retrieve the Bells of Balangiga and to restore them to their
rightful owner is raging on. The Diocese of Cheyenne is supporting us; the
National Bishops Conference of America is behind us; some US legislators are
sympathetic to our cause; our government is not only active in its support,
it is initiating activities towards the return of the bells and closely
coordinating with our own activities to retrieve them.
Now, we are asking, pleading for the support of the entire people of God in
The time to return the
bells is now
By Honorable BEN P. EVARDONE
(Draft of speech for the 103rd Balangiga
Encounter Day, September 28, 2004)
"Now that the U.S. government has run out of
arguments to skirt the issue of the Balangiga bells, perhaps it is high time
for President George Bush to muster his political will to return these bells
where they belong..."
The annual commemoration we observe today in
this town has gone a long way since it was started 15 years ago in 1989, the
year after Congress of the Philippines passed into law Republic Act No.
6692, which declared "September 28 as Balangiga Encounter Day and a special
non‑working holiday in the Province of Eastern Samar."
Fifteen years ago, the Balangiga Encounter Day
was an obscure ritual in a very remote corner of the province. Using
Tacloban City, the regional capital, as point of reference, Balangiga was
reachable by some six hours of night boat travel or some sixteen hours of
direct land vehicle travel on rough roads around much of Samar Island.
Today, Balangiga is‑only 1.5 hours of land
vehicle travel from Tacloban through the very smooth Southern Samar Coastal
Road. The town is literally along the highway towards progress, prosperity,
and development. And its inhabitants now enjoy modern amenities including
cable TV, land telephone, and lately, cellular phone facilities, despite the
frequent electrical brownouts that we continue to suffer in this province. A
modern piped water system is likewise being constructed in the locality.
From virtual obscurity, the Balangiga incident
that we are commemorating today has also virtually displaced from the
limelight from the Leyte Landing rites that our neighboring island will
commemorate next month.
Indeed, the Balangiga Encounter Day has become
the most nationally and internationally visible historical commemoration in
our part of the region in recent years. Whether by design or by default, our
national leaders were party to the recent resurgence of interest in the
Balangiga event of 1901 and what it stood for.
In 1998, then President Fidel V. Ramos staked
his position and mobilized the entire government machinery in an all‑out
campaign to have the now‑famous Bells of Balangiga in time for the
centennial commemoration of the Declaration of Philippine Independence that
year. President Ramos might have failed in his quest, but the symbolism of
the unreturned bells continues to ring to this day.
The bells could not be returned in 1998 because
of several fundamental differences and issues that could not be addressed by
an all‑out media war and political and diplomatic maneuverings.
At its most basic was the fact that there were
two parallel but credible versions of the Balangiga story that did not match
and contradicted each other ‑ one American, and the other, Filipino ‑ that
contradicted each other in almost every aspect. These contrasting versions
of the story, which were fashioned out of selective details and contrasting
interpretations of phenomena about what happened in Balangiga in September
The differences of the two contrasting versions
ranged across almost every facet of the Balangiga story including the
overall situation in Samar around 1901; the arrival of Charlie Company of
the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment in Balangiga; their initial activities in
town, the growing tension, the actual fighting, the number of casualties,
the escape from Balangiga, and the "kill and burn" aftermath.
It took several years of "back to the basic"
research for the contrasting stories about Balangiga to be reconciled and
published as a book written by a native of our region, which we also launch
here today. Its title is The Balangiga Conflict Revisited. This book
was recently complemented by another book, titled Hang the Dogs: The True
Tragic History of the Balangiga Massacre. The authors of both books are
here with us today.
A second basic issue pertained to the bells
themselves. How many bells were taken from Balangiga? What independent
proofs other than the American claims were to prove their Balangiga origin?
Until 1998, the general belief was that there
were only two Bells of Balangiga, and these are displayed at the F.E. Warren
Air Force Base in Wyoming. Since then, it has been proven that a third bell
of Balangiga exists, and this third one is in the possession of the 9th U.S.
Infantry Regiment, which is now stationed in Korea.
The Balangiga Research Group (BRG), which has
extensively researched on the Balangiga event, has presented independent
proof of the bells' Balangiga origins. For instance, the name of Father
Agustin Delgado, the town's parish priest in 1889, is embossed on the 1889
bell displayed in Wyoming, and the name of Father Bernardo Aparicio, the
town's parish priest in 1896, is embossed on the 1896 bell now in Korea.
Other related issues pertain to the legality of
taking the bells from Balangiga belfry by U.S. Army soldiers in 1901, and
precedents from civil law, military law, and international treaties.
According to a British professor who is an
expert on cultural artifacts, who was consulted by the BRG, civil law
has it that "... the taking of civilian property as opposed to military
materiel or items taken as war reparations has not been regarded as legal
since the early 19th century (Paris/Vienna, 1815), if not earlier
The U.S. Army could not also invoke the dictum
of "To the victors belong the spoil" in taking the bells as war trophies.
This was because General Order 100, which guided the U.S. Army conduct
during the Philippine‑American War, specifically prohibited the taking of
The Treaty of Paris signed on December 10, 1898,
through which Spain turned over the Philippines to the United States, stated
that rights to ownership of artifacts which, under the terms of General
Order 100, were held in abeyance, "shall be acknowledged respected and
Thus, civil law, military law, and international
treaties were, together, very clear: the bells belong to Balangiga.
All those directly involved in the Balangiga
affair, on both sides of the Pacific, the U.S. Army senior leadership,
diplomats, and U.S. government officials have been one in saying, although
quietly, that their government knows that the right, legal and ethical
course of action is to return the bells to their rightful place ‑ that is,
On top of these, the U.S. Congress, through the
Unified Code of Military Justice, has provided the President of the United
States with the required authority to return the bells regardless of the
status of the property rights involved.
Winston Churchill, the wartime leader of the
United Kingdom, once said that "the Americans will always do right thing ‑
once they have exhausted every possible alternative."
Now that the U.S. government has run out of
arguments to skirt the issue of the Balangiga bells, perhaps it is high time
for President George Bush to muster his political will to return
these bells where they belong, and bring a closure to the last issue of
contention between the Philippines and United States related to the
Philippine‑American War a century ago.
And the time is now.
The San Francisco Consul General Maria
Rowena Mendoza Sanchez, delivering her challenge to the UP alumni in San
Francisco to help the Philippines
Speech delivered during
the Induction of Incoming 2004-2006
University of the Philippines Alumni
Association of San Francisco
2004. 7:00 PM; Ramada Hotel
Avenue Sunnyvale, California
Filipino-American community is in the best position to help the country to
attract or negotiate for much needed trade and investments..."
Mr. Theodore B.M.
Aquino, President-elect of UPAA-SF, past President Roque Hilomen, Incoming
Officers for 2004-2006 and Members of the UP Alumni Association,
distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen:
Magandang gabi po
sa inyong lahat!
May I convey to
you, Mr. Aquino and the Incoming Officers of the U.P. Alumni Association for
2004-2006, my congratulations on your election to your respective offices. I
wish you all the best in your endeavors in community service and leadership
during your tenure.
The victims of
9-11 terrorist attack
It gives me great
pleasure to be here tonight. Ngunit, mga kababayan, bago po natin
ipagpatuloy ang ating paguusap ngayong gabi, ipahintulot po ninyo na
manahimik muna tayo ng ilang saglit. Let us devote a few seconds of
silence. Let us as we remember those of our kababayans who died three years
ago, during the 9-11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and at the
1) Grace Alegre
Cua; (2) Carl Allen Peralta; (3) Marlyn Bautista; (4) Judy Fernandez; (5)
Maria Teresa Santillan; (6) Jayceryll de Chavez; (7) Hector Tamayo; (8)
Cynthia Betita Motus Wilson; (9) Frederick Kuo, Jr.; (10) Manuel Lopez; (11)
Cecile Caguicla; (12) Rufino Conrado Roy Santos; (13) Cesar Alviar; (14)
Hilario “Larry” Sumaya; (15) Ramon Grihalvo; (16) Arnold Lim; (17) David
Marc Sullins; (18) Benilda Domingo and (19) Ronald Gamboa (who was on board
United Arilines flight no. 175 which hit the South Tower of the World Trade
Center. May they rest in everlasting peace. And as we pray for our
kababayans, let us include all those who perished in this tragedy and their
families whose lives will never be the same.
Association in service to Filipino people
At the outset,
may I commend all of you for sustaining a vibrant association that provides
valuable services to the Filipino American community and the larger
community back home. You have certainly contributed much already to the
upliftment of the welfare of our people, and yet, as I hope we all realize,
we have much more to do for our country.
Consulate General is commited to link arms with you in our continuing
pursuit of national development for all. The Consulate will continue to
provide quality service to the community and the Filipino people. Having
said that, I would like to request that you support us in this effort by
providing feedback and comments on our service. The Consulate also has as
one of its primary objectives, among others, the realization of the five
priorities of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and of all in government.
priorities, foreign policy directions and three pillars of foreign policy
priorities are all aimed at poverty alleviation, notably, (a) creation of
new jobs and establishing broad middle class; (b) quality education for
everyone of school age in uncrowded classrooms and surroundings conducive to
learning; (c) a network of transport and digital infrastructure to
interconnect the whole country; (d) affordable electric power and clean
water to all barangay (village); and (e) develop Subic and Clark into the
best international service and logistic center in the Asia Pacific region.
goals may seem remote to our work and way of life here; the framework and
content of the foreign policy of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is
anchored on the Philippine Constitution, Philippine laws and treaty
obligations that guide us in our relationship with other countries in the
world. It is inevitable these days that individuals and nations inter-relate
with each other, in this challenging and fast-changing world. At the end of
the day however, essential decisions are made on what best serves the
The process of
interdependence among nations, as you certainly know, is not our monopoly or
the concern solely of the Philippine foreign service. The components and
directions of our foreign policy are hinged upon the three pillars of
diplomacy, namely: (1) the preservation and enhancement of national
security; (2) promotion and attainment of economic security; and (3) the
protection of the rights and the promotion of the welfare and interests of
between Foreign Service & Fil-Am Community Service
As I have earlier
said, you have done so much already for our countrymen and yet, we can
still do more, particularly in the second and third pillars on economic
security and promotion of the welfare of overseas Filipinos. We have noted
your programs and projects during the past years and they are, indeed,
laudable. Taking cognizance of your deep patriotic sentiment from the
initiatives you have already made, I am encouraged to convey to you this
additional challenge, as i could perceive your sincere commitment in doing
all you can, in your level best, for our ‘Mahal na Inang Bayan’, instilled
no doubt, in the core of your being since your school days as “Iskolar ng
The times ahead
of us are challenging but I am confident that the task of nation building
which is set before us once again by the spelled-out priorities of the
president and of all in government can, in time and with all our efforts, be
We can implement
the three pillars of foreign policy through programs and projects that will
bounce to the improvement in the well being of our people at home and
abroad. Our country’s economic growth will continue to require direct
foreign investment. Government will strive to make our strategic
geographical setting attractive for international tourism and new
investments. Our economy will also be continuously dependent upon dollar
remittances from our overseas Filipinos. You may wish to consider going to
any retail store and asking for Philippine products. You see, when you
create a demand for Philippine products, you create jobs in the Philippines.
Filipino-American community is in the best position to help the country to
attract or negotiate for much needed trade and investments, transfer of
technology, provide support to small and medium scale entrepreneurs, among
As alumni of the
University of the Philippines, you can also continue providing assistance
not only to our alma mater but perhaps also to the rest of the public
schools system. You all know what an impact such assistance has on the
I am certain you
are one with me in working for the realization of a vision of a Filipino
American Community with an unfailing sense of patriotism, and in a dynamic
partnership with your government in building a stronger Philippines.
kayo ng Poong Maykapal sa inyong mga adhikain para sa inyong samahan at para
sa ating sambayanang Pilipino.
Mabuhay ang UP
Alumni Association of San Francisco!
po at magandang gabi muli sa inyong lahat.
By BRYAN M. AZURA
August 31, 2004
"The province purchased 2,165 bags of fertilizers worth P3 Million plus but
the Provincial Agriculturist of this least blessed province denied his
office received any fertilizer..."
In one of the press conferences I attended, a discussion
arose among the media people.
“I have a radio program in one of the local radio
stations,” said proudly of a foreign-speaking newsman. The oldest among
suddenly quipped, “Good that you have a radio program.” “But the question
is:” grinningly he continued, “Is there anyone listening to your program?”
Everyone in the group burst into laughter.
The old man did not stop
there... “In like manner, I write in newspaper. But the question is: Is
there anyone reading my write-ups?” A louder laughter exploded.
Funny, isn’t it? Questioned in a serious manner,
will it make sense? It will. Granting that someone is in that kind of
dilemma isn’t it more appropriate to ask rather a more objective question
such as, “Is my write-up in fact worth the time reading?”
More to that, Eastern Samar, is rather
pressed with more confronting questions, at least for the moment. For one,
where have all the bags of NBEM-21 Granules Inoculants and Soil Activator
otherwise known as fertilizers gone? The province purchased 2,165 bags of
the said fertilizers worth P3 Million plus but the Provincial Agriculturist
of this least blessed province, Jesus Agda, denied his office received any
fertilizer from Akame Marketing International, the supplier. Where are the
The previous provincial government under ex-Gov.
Clotilde Salazar entered into a transaction with Akame for the purchase of
3,332 bags of NBEM worth P4,990,000.00 intended for all LGUs in the
Next question would be, “Is there really such a
fertilizer distributor called Akame Marketing? This writer is part of the
group that tried to locate the addresses indicated in the Official Receipts
issued to the
Province of Eastern Samar for the purportedly delivered fertilizers but to
What question could surpass in the controversial
issue on fertilizers than “could it be that the province paid twice for the
same item supposedly ordered?” How come the province issued two separate
checks, each containing P3,083,700.00 for 2,165 bags? The supplier issued
two separate Official Receipts for the two checks.
The present administration of Gov. Ben Evardone
should look more into this. The national government is even taking stiffer
measures to lessen its expenditures and increase revenues because of the
ballooning international debts and now the poor people of Eastern Samar is
once again deprived of a chance to improve at least its agricultural facet
by paying twice for a possibly non-existent fertilizer.
In a later development, there had been claims
that the so-called NBEM fertilizers were indeed delivered to the towns of
Dolores, Can-avid and Oras. In the claim, the soil activators purportedly
could not be used for the meantime because a group from the Department of
Agriculture should conduct training first to farmers who will be using it.
Why is it that in many interviews, people in the DA Regional Office admitted
they don’t know what NBEM-21 Microbial Inoculants and Soil Activator? This
writer is wondering how in the world would people not knowing about the
product, could train people how to use it.