New push to bring Balangiga bells back gains support

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at May 27 2015 10:58 AM | Updated as of May 27 2015 06:58 PM

LOS ANGELES – A grassroots campaign to recover a pair of bells stolen from a Leyte church in the Philippine-American War is gaining steam.

It’s all thanks to efforts by a group who believes the national treasure should be returned to its rightful home.

Over a hundred years ago, during the Filipino-American war, a battle took place in Leyte in the small town of Balangiga.

Hundreds of Filipinos were massacred and two church bells taken as war booty.

The Balangiga bells are still in the possession of the US military.

After 114 years, Filipinos and American are teaming up to bring the bells back to Balangiga.

"It just needs to be given back. If we can get Congress, we believe we would get both sides of the aisle--Democrats and Republicans. If we get hundreds and thousands of people, screaming about bring the bells back, send the bells back, it will affect politicians deeply," said internationally-renowned private investigator Logan Clark of the Bringthebellsback.org.

In 1901, during the one of the bloodiest massacre of the Filipino-American war, American forces seized the bells of Balangiga in Samar.

Despite several attempts to bring back the bells and unfulfilled promises by several US presidents to return them, the bells remain at an American Air Force base in Wyoming.

For Oscar Penaranda, whose family is from Leyte, the return of the bells is personal as his grandfather Florentino served in the war.

"I don't think my grandfather was there when this happened but he was one of the planners. General Lukban, he recruited my Lolo to be one of his assistants in gathering revolutionary forces units in Samar and Leyte," he said.

With the rise of internet campaigns, Clark and Penaranda believe now is the time to raise awareness on the war booty.

"The whole momentum here, technology, no one knows about the bells of Balangiga, nobody knows about the war because it just wasn't brought in the education system and everything," said Clark.

The group launched an indiegogo campaign to help raise funds for lobbyists to build pressure to government officials to return the bells.

"The difference this time, the initiation of the return of the bells is coming from the citizens of the United states...there's an international appeal now of returning the bells to Balangiga," Penaranda said.

One of the celebrities to jump on board is Danny Glover who narrates a short video on the website Bringthebellsback.org.

Over the years, various Filipino groups have tried to bring the bells home and failed. Supporters believe that this major technological push may be the attempt that finally gets the job done.

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