DFA seeks return of Balangiga bells


“To honor the people of Samar who fought valiantly for freedom” during the Philippine-American War, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it would aggressively pursue diplomatic efforts for the return of the Balangiga bells that were carted away by American troops during their occupation of the Eastern Visayas province more than 110 years ago.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told the Inquirer over the weekend that the department “feels strongly about the return of the bells to their rightful place in Samar and to the Filipino people.”

“As religious artifacts, they should not have been taken from the Balangiga church in the first place,” Del Rosario said.

Since the late 1980s, the Philippines has been lobbying the United States through “political, diplomatic and religious channels” to get the bells back.

Meanwhile, Renato Reyes, secretary general of the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), accused the US government of “hiding behind all sorts of excuses, such as the need for legislation, to stall the return of the historic bells.

“What’s untenable in their position is that they know that the capture of those bells were at the cost of thousands of Filipino lives in Samar,” Reyes pointed out.

He said, “their continued possession of those bells is a continuing reminder of the kind of relationship we have with the US: one-sided and not based on mutual respect…You don’t need WikiLeaks to tell you how bad the US treats us.”

For Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino, “stealing the bells was an act of brute colonial power.”

Added ACT party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio: “The US has never apologized for the atrocities committed by its troops. The return of the bells would be an important gesture toward acknowledging and coming to terms with the past for both sides.

Last week, Vice President Jejomar Binay urged the United States to “heed the voice of the Filipino people.” In a statement, Binay expressed optimism the US Congress would pass a pending resolution calling for the return of the Balangiga church bells.

When contacted, Tina Malone, the new spokesperson of the US Embassy in Manila, said “Washington was still gathering information” on the status of US congressional action on the Balangiga bells.

Two of the bells are on display at the Warren Air Force base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The third bell, which is much smaller than the first two, is on display at the headquarters of the 9th Infantry Regiment of the US Army in Camp Red Cloud, South Korea.

The bells were taken by American occupation soldiers to cap a battle victory against Filipino insurrection troops in Balangiga. They all bear the emblem of the Franciscan order: bell one has an 1853 marking while bell two 1889 and bell three 1896.

The issue of the bells gained new relevance after the Sisters of Mercy, an order of nuns in Nebraska, recently handed over to Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim, head of the Philippine consulate in Chicago, two small bells that had been taken by US troops from a church in Meycauayan, Bulacan, on March 29, 1899.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Third

    A legislation is needed to return a stolen property???

  • Joe Kano

    Once again, the Inquirer fails to present the history of this issue in any meaningful context, and simply regurgitates a slew of self-serving news releases.

    This article doesn’t even mention the Balangiga Massacre, which is at the heart of the dispute over the bells.

    The bells were rung to signal a surprise attack, in which Filipino resistance fighters/guerrillas hacked about 50 Americans to death with bolos as they prepared breakfast. Many were horribly mutilated.

    That is why the bells have a special significance to many American veterans: they signaled the start of a surprise massacre of American troops.

    The Americans soon launched a brutal scorched-earth retaliation campaign across Samar (not just in Balangiga) that killed thousands of Filipinos, including women and children. That’s when the bells were taken.

    They should be returned.

    But is it too much to ask that basic and accurate context be included when reporting on this controversial and emotional issue?

  • Gregg

    the u.s. should not  just return the balangiga bells, they should apologize to the filipino people for their crime against humanity.

  • Anonymous

    To the victors belong the spoils of war. With this simple but realistic adage, do not expect the Ba-bells to be repatriated anytime soon. The US will take its sweet time while we plead for its urgent return.

  • Anonymous

    DFA seeks return of Balangiga bells….

    Enough of this patriotic and historic acts kuno. Just because it was in the hands of Americans, it became important and significant in our History.
    These bells is better be in American hands for it will preserve its history. Once it is in the hands of Filipinos, there will be no more value and will be forgotten.
    How many bells in the Philippines that were part of Philippine history from Spain, Americans, Japanese but remain dusted and no historical value. Because it is in the hands of Filipinos.
    Very simple. What these congressmen should do is just research all the bells in our country, and they will find piece of history and not grab what the americans have.

    Enough of History grabbing, create your own.


    • Kenshin Himura

      I agree that the Americans are good in preserving things. But preserving something that doesn’t belong to them is not a good trophy for them to keep. Return the Balangiga bells that rightfully belongs to the real owners.

  • Anonymous

    Poor Bells. Once it is in the hands of Filipinos. They will be sold as por kilo as piece of junk.

  • Anonymous

    The bells in picture find their niche and history. Thank you Americans who gave value history and memory. to the bells.
    Don’t go back to Philippines for you will lose any significant history you embedded. You will be like ordinary bells but mostly might be used as sorbetes bell.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos