BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar -- Preparations are underway here for the arrival of 2 centuries-old bells that were kept in the US as war bounty since 1901.
President Rodrigo Duterte demanded the return of the Balangiga Bells in 2017, saying these were part of Filipino heritage. The bells arrived in Guam this week on their way to the Philippines.
The bells will be displayed first on an open platform outside the St. Lawrence Church, parish priest Fr. Serafin Tybaco Jr told ABS-CBN News.
The bells will eventually be installed at the church’s old belfry after renovation works are finished.
Displaying the bells for the meantime will also allow tourists and pilgrims to touch the bells and take photos, he said.
There are plans for the tolling of the bells during "simbang gabi" or the 9-day dawn masses before Christmas.
"Malaking regalo, maagang pamasko yan," Tybaco said."May koneksyon ang pagdating ng bells sa pagdating ng Panginoon. Regalo para sa faithful ng Balangiga."
(That will be a big and early Christmas gift. There's a connection between the arrival of the bells and the coming of the Lord. It's a gift to the faithful of Balangiga.)
The bells symbolize a victory for Filipinos during the Philippine-American war over a century ago, said historian Rolando Borrinaga, who researched on the Balangiga conflict for over 2 decades
"Itong pagsauli ng bells, 'yung symbolism this was one glorious moment sa ating history na nanalo tayo in a period of war," he said.
(The return of the bells, the symbolism is this was one glorious moment in our history where we won in a period of war.)
"'Di lang tayo nanalo against the enemy, we also won against ourselves and our limitations. Magandang lesson for our people," he said.
(Not only did we win against our enemy, we also won against ourselves and our limitations. It's a good lesson for our people.)
"Marami ang mag-iiyakan sa pag-uwi, isa na ako dun. Basically, this will signify the closure of the tragic Philippine-American war, new rounds of good relations between the Philippines and the US," he said.
(Many will weep when the bells come home, including myself. Basically, this will signify the closure of the tragic Philippine-American war, new rounds of good relations between the Philippines and the US.)