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Balangiga Church prepares for return of historic bells

Balangiga Church prepares for return of historic bells

US Defense chief Jim Mattis (right) shakes hands with Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez during a ceremony in Wyoming to celebrate the Balangiga bells’ return to the Philippines on Nov 15, 2018. PHOTO COURTESY OF US EMBASSY MANILA

By Roy Lagarde

November 15, 2018

Manila, Philippines

The parish of St. Lawrence the Martyr said they’re putting the Balangiga bells’ security at the heart of their plans for the much-anticipated return of the religious artifacts.

Many people and tourists are expected to make their way to Balangiga to see the three bells that were used as “war booty” by American soldiers in 1901.

Father Serafin Tybaco, parish priest of Balangiga, said local preparations are underway as the US has started the process of returning the bells.

“Among our concerns is the security of our place because we need people who will guard the bells round the clock,” Tybaco said.

Among the initial plans, he said, is to display the bells together with other “ruined bells” in a memorial built beside the church or build a museum for the artifacts.

“It will depend on the developments from our meetings in the diocese with the local government and the national heritage authorities,” Tybaco added.

On Thursday, a ceremony attended by Pentagon chief Jim Mattis and Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez at the F.E. Warren Air Base in Wyoming was held for the symbolic turnover of the Balangiga bells to the Philippines.

Romualdez said the two bells in Wyoming will first be brought to Philadelphia where it will be refurbished.

He said the bells will first be brought to Korea first where the third bell is being kept before being repatriated to the Philippines.

Reports said that the Balangiga bells are set to be returned to the country between mid-December to early January.

“The feeling is overwhelming and unexplainable that what we have been hoping for will finally happen,” said Tybaco.