Renewed effort in So. California to return ‘Bells of Balangiga’
HUNTINGTON BEACH, California — A pre-launch meeting for a renewed campaign to recover the “Bells of Balangiga,” the famed war booty from Eastern Samar during the Philippine-American war in the 1900s, was held Saturday, February 28 at this seaside city.
Logan Clarke, president of the Committee for the Return of the Bells showed some 50 Southern Californians a short documentary on that episode of the Philippine American war where 48 American soldiers were killed in an early morning surprise attack by mostly Balangiga townsfolk and some Filipino rebels.
The military setback had been compared to the defeat of General Armstrong Custer at Little Big Horn during the Indian wars. A photo exhibit about the gruesome aftermath of this encounter was also presented.
The documentary trailer depicted ensuing reprisals against the people of Samar, which resulted in tens of thousand natives killed in the indiscriminate violence perpetrated by American soldiers acting on orders from their superiors.
Those responsible for the atrocities had long been held accountable, but the three bells of the church of Balangiga were seized during the punitive campaign. These historical religious icons continue to be held as war booty in U.S. military installations in South Korea and Wyoming.
U.S. Naval Academy graduate and committee member Max Ricketts wrote: “From the Samar campaign, the U.S. Army took four items as war booty: A 16th century English Falcon cannon and three church bells. One church bell remains with the U.S. Army 9th Infantry Regiment at their base in South Korea. Two other bells and the English cannon are prominently displayed at a former Army base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.”
Clarke was an American expatriate in the Philippines during the seventies and eighties, working in the Philippine film industry, notably on the film “Sunugin ang Samar!!” He recalled acting opposite Pilar Pilapil in the film. “I was the bad guy,” he reminisced.
Clarke told INQUIRER.net there had been failed efforts in the past to recover the bells. The new recovery campaign will get a boost from well-known celebrities including boxing star Manny Pacquiao.
With a strong collaborative efforts among American and Filipino communities, sports and Hollywood, Clarke is confident renewed efforts to bring back the historic bells to the Filipino people will succeed.
He said when he learned from a film director-friend that the bells of Balangiga were still in U.S. hands he was inspired to personally work for their recovery.
“The bells are not something you can keep as a war trophy,” said Clarke. “They are a symbol of freedom and faith of the Filipino people and it is a disgrace that we have kept them for over a century. The time has come to return the bells. It is the just thing to do — to honor that time in history.”
He told INQUIRER.net that he was once part of the Manila scene as he had
owned and ran a jazz bar in Ermita frequented mostly by advertising managers and representatives.
He is currently a private investigator in Los Angeles searching for lost people and jewelry and has helped in many domestic trafficking cases.
“You can say I am a retriever,”he joked, “maybe in the likes of Indiana Jones.” His most recent “find” was the missing DJ Hollywood icon Casey Kasem, after Kasem’s daughter, Kerri Kasem, hired him.
Clarke names many supporters the most famous of them all – Pacquiao — whom he met with at the champion’s residences in the Philippines and Los Angeles.
Another foremost campaign member is U. S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who in 2006 sponsored a bill to return the war relic but was unsuccessful.
Actors Danny Glover, Rosario Dawson, John Savage, Natassha Kinski, Jack Silberman, Philippine director and actor Ronnie Ricketts, are among those who have lent their names to the campaign.
Carlos Zialcita, founder of Filipino American Jazz Festival in San Francisco, Ferdinand Galang, a Filipino-American film director and son of late Filipino actor Fred Galang and Filipino writer-educator Oscar Peñaranda, are among Filipino American supporters who were present at the pre-launch meeting.
A formal launch of the campaign to raise awareness of this issue is being planned for Beverly Hills. It will also launch an Indiegogo crowd-funding drive to support activities including a full-length documentary about the bells and the events on September 28, 1901 in Samar.
The campaign plans to hire a legal team, conduct visits in Wyoming, sponsor a bill for the restitution of the bells and enlist the help of a pro-bono lobbyist in Washington, DC
The indiegogo posting will go live late this week.