TACLOBAN CITY-Indescribable feelings.
That’s how the parish priest of Balangiga in Eastern Samar feels with the return of the bells taken from the town’s Church belfry 117 years by the American soldiers to their town.
Fr. Serafin Tybaco, Jr., parish priest of the San Lorenzo Martir, said that whatever he feels right now is sure how the people of Balangiga, more than 98 kms away from this city, feels.
“It’s really overwhelming and indescribable feelings that finally the long wait is over,” Tybaco, reach on his mobile phone, said.
On Wednesday (Thursday in the Philippines), US Defense Sec. James Mattis led in the send-off ceremony, dubbed as ‘Veteran Remembrance Event,’ of the two bells at the FE Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. Also present was Wyoming Governor Matthew Head.
The Philippine delegation was led by Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez.
Tybaco said that while he is not a native of Balangiga, he shares the strong emotions now being felt by the locals on the return of the historic bells.
“They have waited for the return of the bells for so long, for 117 years now and no living resident of the town has perhaps seen the (real bells)except in Facebook or pictures,” Tybaco, who is a native of Taft, Eastern Samar, said.
“So everybody is eager to see the bells,” he added.
Tybaco, as parish priest of the town for four years now, played an active role for the call in returning the bells taken by the American forces on September 28,1901.
He could not give details as to plans once the bells would be repatriated back to Balangiga saying meetings are still on going.
The parish priest, however, said that the bells would be placed at the Church grounds for a public viewing.
Rolando Borrinaga, a local historian and member of the also a member of the Committee on Historical Research of National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), said that the Balangiga Bells would be returned to the country by ‘mid-December’ of this year.
“The target date is still mid-December but there might be some delay because of the holidays in the US and some other contingent factors,” Borrinaga said.
The bells were used by the Filipino resistance fighters to signal their attack against the American forces assigned in Balangiga town.
At least 54 American soldiers were killed and 18 others were wounded in the attack.
An outraged Gen. Jacob Smith deployed 180 soldiers on Sept.29,1901 and ordered them to turn the town into a ‘howling wilderness’ where every Filipino male, at least 11 years old and capable of carrying firearms, was killed while communities were burned down.
The American soldiers took the bells as their war trophies.