‘Balangiga bells belong in the church, not in a museum’

‘Balangiga bells belong in the church, not in a museum’

Philippine Airforce personel unload one of the three Balangiga bells after they arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Tuesday, Dec. 11. ROY LAGARDE

By Roy Lagarde

December 13, 2018

Manila, Philippines

Borongan diocese leaders strongly resist attempts to keep one of the three Balangiga bells in Manila.

In a statement released Thursday, Bishop Crispin Varquez and his clergy said the bells should remain from their “historical and rightful habitat” which is the St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr Parish Church.

“Any effort aimed at such a transfer is a disrespectful mangling of history and the right of the Catholic faithful of Balangiga to their private property,” they said.

“But just as we do not transfer Jose Rizal’s family mementoes from the Rizal residence in Calamba to Manila, nor do we move from Kawit, Cavite the artifacts of the First Philippine Republic, neither should we transfer any or all of the Balangiga Bells from their historical and rightful location: namely, the Roman Catholic Parish Church of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr,” they said.

The local church officials pointed out that the bells are “sacramentals” and “sacred artifacts” that call the faithful to prayer and worship.

“But they especially call them to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the highest form of prayer and worship for Catholics. Therefore, they belong in the Church, not in a museum,” they said.

The church leaders were reacting to Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri’s Resolution No. 965 that seeks to transfer one of the bells to the National Museum in Manila.

The measure states that keeping a bell in the museum would give many Filipinos a chance to see the artifact “and be reminded of the role it played in one of the bloodiest chapters of the Philippine-American War.”

The diocese said they recognize the national significance of the bells and they likewise desire that they be correctly appreciated by all Filipinos, in particular by the young and also by the future generations.

But Zubiri’s proposal, according to them, “does violence to history and the sacred character and purpose of the Balangiga Bells”.

“It must be rejected,” they exclaimed.

“The Balangiga Encounter at which the bells played a role happened in Balangiga. It is only right that they be returned to Balangiga and stay in Balangiga,” they also said.

The bells taken from Balangiga town in Eastern Samar province by US soldiers 117 years ago were flown to Manila on Tuesday.

The church artifacts were taken as war booty by the American troops, after 48 of them died in what is now known as Balangiga massacre.

The bells are expected to arrive in Balangiga on Dec. 15 for a handover ceremony from the Department of National Defense to the Diocese of Borongan.