By Roy Mabasa
United States Defense Secretary James Mattis has officially announced the return of the historic Balangiga bells to the Philippines in consideration of the enduring friendship between the two countries and its respect of the past as “co-equal brothers in arms.”
“In returning the bells of Balangiga to our ally and our friend, the Philippines, we pick up our generation’s responsibility to deepen the respect between our peoples,’ Mattis remarked at the ceremony in Wyoming marking the beginning of the process to return the church bells to the Philippines.
Mattis, himself a retired soldier, said the US military did not forget how the Filipino troops and people fought and died with the Americans in the dark days of World War II.
He also paid tribute to the role played by Philippine expeditionary forces during the Korean War in the early 1950s, and the Filipino doctors and nurses organized under the so-called “Operation Brotherhood” during the Vietnam War.
“We recognize 117 years of enduring friendship and comradeship in some of the toughest fighting in our nation’s history,” the US defense secretary said.
Under the present time, the American official acknowledged the US-Philippine cooperation in the fight against ISIS and the scourge of terrorism.
Although Mattis did not mention as to when the bells will be returned, Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said the Balangiga bells are coming back to the country “hopefully before the end of the year.”
As part of the process, Romualdez said the two bells that are currently enshrined in Wyoming will be shipped to a facility in Philadelphia to undergo restoration procedure.
It will then be shipped to South Korea where it will rejoin with the third bell that is being kept in a US military base there.
As the news of the announcement came, the Philippine government expressed its appreciation to those who were instrumental in bringing the bells back home after 117 years when it was taken by American forces as a war booty during the Philippine-American war in 1901.
“Today is a time of solemn remembrance as we pay tribute to all those who gave up their lives during the Filipino-AmericanWar,” the Philippine government said in a statement. We also honor the shared sacrifice of Filipinos and Americans who fought shoulder to shoulder during the Second World War. We are grateful for the efforts of the executive and legislative branches of the United States Government, most especially Secretary of Defense James Mattis and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley as well as concerned Filipino and American friends led by Hank Hendrickson, Dennis Wright, Henry Howard, Dan McKinnon and others from the US-Philippines Society who worked together over the years to bring the bells back home,” the Philippine government said.