The Bells We Took After a 1901 Slaughter Are Returned

The Philippines has wanted them back for decades
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2018 5:12 PM CST
US Returns the 'Spoils of War': 3 Church Bells Taken in 1901
Guests gather for souvenir shots with three Balangiga church bells following handover ceremony.   (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

It was the largest slaughter of American troops since Custer's Last Stand 25 years prior: The 1901 deaths of 48 soldiers who were occupying the town of Balangiga during the Philippine-American War. As the AP reports, hundreds of male villagers (and, per NPR, a single female) dressed as women, armed themselves with bolos, and sounded the signal to attack: the peal of one of the town's church bells. Then came revenge: The New York Times reports the responding US soldiers were ordered to kill every male 10 and older; they also took Balangiga's bells. On Tuesday, what President Rodrigo Duterte last year called "the spoils of war" were returned.

Sung Kim, the US ambassador to the Philippines, said Duterte's plea for their return was hardly the first: The country's presidents have made such a request for nearly 30 years. But Kim said Duterte's forceful July 2017 words made a difference: "They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage." At a ceremony in Manila Tuesday, Kim called it a "great honor to be here at this closing of a painful chapter in our history. Our relationship has withstood the tests of history and flourishes today." The bells—which had been kept at a US Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., and with the US Army in Korea—will be transferred to Balangiga on Saturday. (Read more on the dispute over the bells here.)

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