By Arjay L. Balinbin
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte is expected to formally receive the Balangiga bells from the United States on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
In an advisory on Sunday morning, Dec. 9, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said the President is set to lead the handover ceremony of the Balangiga bells by the US government to the Philippines.
The ceremony will take place at the Philippine Air Force Grandstand, Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, according to Malacañang.
Mr. Duterte demanded the return of the Balangiga bells in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July last year. The bells were taken as war booty in 1901 by members of the US Army during the Philippine-American War.
In a statement on Sunday afternoon, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said: “We consider the occasion as an affirmation of our strong and enduring relations with our long-standing ally, the United States, as we thank them for this gesture that would formally put a closure to a tragic and contentious episode in both our countries’ history.”
The return of the bells to the Balangiga Church in East Samar was officially announced by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis at the F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming on Nov. 15.
In a statement, as posted on the official Website of the US Embassy in the Philippines, Mr. Mattis said: “In returning the Bells of Balangiga to our ally and our friend – the Philippines – we pick up our generation’s responsibility to deepen the respect between our peoples.”
He added that Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez would “bear these bells home, back to their Catholic Church, confident that America’s ironclad alliance with the Philippines is stronger than ever.”
For his part, US. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said: “This is a great day for the US-Philippine relationship as friends, partners, and allies.”
“I can think of no clearer affirmation of the United States’ commitment to the Philippines than the return of the Balangiga Bells. To all those who have worked to make this day happen, thank you!” the Ambassador added.
The Diocese of Borongan announced last week that there will be a thanksgiving mass for the return of the bells at St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish-Balangiga on Dec. 14.
By Arjay L. Balinbin