HOME OF THE BALANGIGA BELLS. The Balangiga Church in Eastern Samar, the home of Balangiga bells. The bells are expected to come home in mid-December. (Photo by Department of Tourism Eastern Visayas)
TACLOBAN CITY -- The repatriation of the historic Balangiga bells is a big boost to the local tourism industry as it will attract more visitors to the sleepy town in Eastern Samar, a top regional official of the Department of Tourism said on Wednesday.
DOT Eastern Visayas Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes said in a mobile phone interview the local government should prepare not just for the welcome ceremony, but for the influx of tourists as well.
“Aside from showcasing the bells, they should be able to share the story of the Balangiga Encounter and the lessons that this event imparts. Add-ons should be highlights of the local culture, cuisine and products,” Tiopes told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Fe Campanero, Balangiga town tourism officer, said even before the news of the bells’ return came out, some tourists have already expressed interest to visit the town and learn its history.
“The bells’ coming home will bring a lot of opportunities to us. The influx of tourist is highly expected and we have been preparing for it,” said Campanero, a granddaughter of one of Filipino fighters who massacred the American soldiers in 1901.
Historian Rolando Borrinaga, one of those who worked for the bell’s return, confirmed that the Balangiga bells team in the US will go to Cheyenne, Wyoming to join Secretary of Defense James Mattis for a ceremony at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base on November 15.
“This will mark the beginning of the journey of the two Wyoming bells back to the church from which they were taken. The bells will now be able to begin their journey home. The third Balangiga bell at a US Army museum in South Korea had been crated weeks ago and is also ready for shipment home,” Borrinaga said
The latest successful campaign for the return of the Bells of Balangiga was largely a veterans-to-veterans effort, according to Borrinaga. Among those in the US veterans’ community that supported the plea are the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
Borrinaga, secretary of the Committee on Historical Research of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, hopes the bells will be back to Balangiga town before Christmas Day. He said the return of the Balangiga Bells to Eastern Samar will give closure to the Philippine-American war.
Tiopes said the bells’ journey home is a big celebration to the country since those are symbols of faith and sacrifice.
“We all should celebrate with the return of the bells. And as we celebrate we should also look back at our history and salute the bravery of our forefathers. These bells serve as a symbol of their willingness to sacrifice their life in their struggle against oppression. The patriotism of our forebears is something that we should emulate and be inspired of,” Tiopes added.
Over a century ago, American soldiers took the bells from Balangiga town’s church as war trophy. The bells’ ringing signaled the attack by the villagers against the invaders.
The Balangiga Encounter happened on Sept. 28, 1901, when town residents led by Valeriano Abanador initiated an attack against US soldiers. The villagers killed 54 American soldiers using bolos. It was the biggest defeat of the foreign troop during the Philippine-American war.
Around 2,500 Filipinos were killed by the US retaliatory attack. The Americans took the Balangiga Bells after they turned the town into a “howling wilderness.”
Balangiga town is about 98 kilometers east of Tacloban City. It is a 4th class town in Eastern Samar, with a population of 14,085. (PNA)