By FLORO L. MERCENE
President Rodrigo Duterte had beaten to the draw other countries who are also clamoring for the return of their precious heritage, with the arrival of the Balangiga Bells after an absence of 117 years.
Many foreign work of arts were systematically looted by the colonial powers and researchers found that these include spoils of war (like our Balangiga Bells), theft, and pillage. Others have been “bought” for fractions of their real value.
It is said in jest that the many famous museums would be empty shells if most of what are displayed there today are returned to the countries where they were originally taken.
The British Museum has various Egyptian arts and artifacts on display at the Egyptian galleries, including its largest exhibition space for monumental sculpture.
It is said only 4 percent of its Egyptian holdings can be seen by the public. The second-floor galleries have a selection of the museum’s collection of 140 mummies and coffins, the largest outside Cairo.
Over the years, several campaigns have been launched in Greece and in the UK calling on the British Museum to return the Elgin marbles or the Parthenon sculptures. These are priceless carvings which depict stories and figures from ancient Greek civilization.
At the time, Greece was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The seventh Lord Elgin — Great Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire — began removing the artifacts from the Acropolis in 1799.
Today, France is also being besieged by a few African countries, asking for the return of looted arts.
The governor of Easter Island is also asking for the return of their moai. “You have our soul,” he pleaded. Moai are human-faced statues in Rapa Nui, (named Easter Island by colonial powers) famous for its approximately 1,000 carvings.
A report commissioned by France President Emmanuel Macron said about 90 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage currently lies outside the continent.
The artifacts from Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, and Benin are held by the Musée du quai Branly, and the report found that about 46,000 of its 90,000 African works were “acquired” between 1885 and 1960 and may have to be returned.