By JULLIE Y. DAZA
The “miracle” of the return of the bells of Balangiga happened because good things happen in God’s time.
“The stars are aligned,” so said Henry Howard of the US Philippine Society which worked hand in hand with Filipino historians, clergy, government people, to ensure the bells’ homecoming, “at no cost to the US government.” He learned to speak Cebuano “perfectly” in 1974 as an exchange student in Ateneo de Cagayan Xavier University.
Dennis Wright, a retired US Navy captain who’s a director of the American Chamber of Commerce, Central Luzon chapter, said “it made no sense” for a “gang of five” influential Americans to insist on keeping the bells in Wyoming when descendants of the American troops in Balangiga “want the bells to go home.” They included the family of Sgt. Frank Betron, a survivor of the battle who married a Filipina nine months after the attack and produced a line of dozens of grandchildren; and Jean Wall and Samantha Hoffman, whose father and cousin, respectively, fought in the war. Sgt. Breton is interred in Clark Field.
A US law prohibiting the return of “veteran memorial objects” to their country of origin lapsed in 2017, the same year that saw President Duterte demanding, “Give us back those bells!”
In 1935, Capt. Eugenio Daza was first to seek their return. His efforts were continued in 1957 by Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ, and by a succession of Philippine presidents.
May I thank Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Rep. Ben Evardone for prominently mentioning Capt. Daza, the highest ranking Filipino soldier in Samar at the time, for his role in planning, organizing, and leading the raid on the GIs as they ate their breakfast. He was the father of my father-in-law, Gabriel A. Daza.
Made of bronze, cast in Intramuros sometime in the late 1890s, the bells weigh 360, 475, 500 lbs each. The smallest one is presumed to be what was rung to signal the attack. In times of peace like Christmas, a bell finds its usefulness when its voice is heard to herald glad tidings, so let’s hear the bells ring in Balangiga — one bell or three to ring in another century of peace and joy in our land.