WATCH: ‘Many were involved’ in returning of Balangiga bells – Msgr. Quitorio
“There are so many people involved in this [return of Balangiga bells]. I would not want to put it into one head.”
Msgr. Pedro Quitorio III, committee chairman for the return of Balangiga bells in the Diocese of Borongan, told INQUIRER.net on Thursday, saying that the effort of returning the bells was not only under the Duterte administration.
After years of requesting for the bells from the United States (US) government, it will be finally be repatriated in the country.
President Rodrigo Duterte, during his 2017 State of the Nation Address (Sona), called for the return of the bells taken from the Philippine-American war.
Duterte said: “They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage. Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit ’yun sa amin.”
However, Quitorio said before Duterte’s statement, the request for the bells’ return was already pending, noting that the confirmation of the US Defense Secretary was being expected.
“Bago siya (Duterte) magsalita sa Sona palabas na yun. Ang inaantay na lang yung confirmation ng (US) Defense Secretary,” he said.
Quitorio acknowledged former President Fidel Ramos, former Philippine Ambassadors to the United States Raul Rabe and the late Senator and Ambassador Ernesto Maceda as they are the ones lobbying these requests to the United States for the retrieval of the bells since the 1990s.
“If I were going to give a pasasalamat, I would start with President Ramos, Ambassador Rabe, Ambassador Ernesto Maceda sila ang nagstart nito nakipagusap nakipaglobby ng matagal,” he said.
He also revealed that a lot of Filipino-US groups were supporting for the return of the bells such as Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon.
“There was a Hollywood producer yung gumawa ng film, “Two Bells, Two worlds” actress si Susan Sarandon she herself is part of the effort,” he said.
Last August, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed the document allowing the bells to be returned in the Philippines.
Two of the bells were stored in the 9th Infantry Regiment at Camp Red Cloud in South Korea while two others are at Wyoming.
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) posted a video on the turnover ceremony of the bells attended by Mattis and Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez in Wyoming, US.
READ: WATCH: US announces return of Balangiga bells to PH
Despite this ceremony, Quitorio said they have yet to plan for the preparations as they await the exact date for the shipment of the bells in the country.
Quitorio described the Balangiga bells as a “national patrimony,” noting the involvement of the Defense department and the country’s government.
“Since na-involve na yung mga sundalo and yung Philippine government, I think it will be selfish on the side of church na hindi bigyan ng historical significance because it figured on the Philippine-American war so I would like to see it also as a national patrimony,” he said.
He also explained that the St. Lawrence Church in Balangiga, Borongan owned the bells, saying it was “needed for worship.”
“The bells, may nakasulat na nasa parish siya ng St. Lawrence of Balangiga. Pag-aari yan ng simbahan,” he said. “Dahil pag-aari yan ng simbahan, ang simabahan ay hanggang ngayon mula noon ginagamit na yung bells for worship, a call to worship a call to prayer.”
The Diocese of Borongan is still waiting for the return of the bells, which will be delivered in the St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish Church.
The Church based in Balangiga completed its repairs in 2016 after it was damaged by Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013. /jpv
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