President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Saturday said the Filipino and American people deserve credit for the return of the Balangiga bells from the U.S. to the Philippines.
“Nobody but nobody can claim a singular credit for the generous act of the Americans. The bells are returned. The credit goes to the American people and to the Filipino people, period,” said Duterte during the official handover of the Transfer Certificate of the Balangiga bells from United States Deputy Chief of Mission John Law to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a ceremony at the Balangiga Auditorium in Eastern Samar.
The President also said the victory of recovering the bells is the result of “optimism and solidarity and patriotism” of both the Philippine and US governments and its people.
He described the bells’ homecoming as having heralded a new and more vibrant chapter in Philippines and U.S. bilateral relations.
Duterte has repeatedly aired his call on the return of the bells during his second State of the Nation Address in 2017.
Prior to their return, two of the three bells used to be enshrined at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming while the third bell was at Camp Red Cloud in South Korea.
The three bells arrived 10:28 a.m. at Guiuan Airport in Eastern Samar onboard a Philippine Air Force C-130 plane from Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.
“More than just a part of the Balangiga Church, these bells are a significant element in our country’s religious and historical narrative. They are an enduring symbol of our history and treasure,” Duterte said in his speech.
“I therefore trust that our ‘kababayans’ in Balangiga and the rest of the country will ensure the protection of these gems and will continue to preserve and promote our culture and history,” he said.
Duterte added that the bells’ homecoming does not only bring back the glory of the town of Balangiga, but also contributes to the full restoration of all Filipinos’ dignity.
He described the turnover of the three church bells as a “truly sentimental” event especially since efforts of both Philippine and American governments to push for their return have been long and tedious.
“Today’s gathering is indeed a time to be truly sentimental as we welcome back our Balangiga Bells. It has been 117 years since these bells were taken away from us. Yet, we never lost hope that someday, these treasures will be returned to where they belong,” Duterte said.
“We know fully well that several efforts to return the bells have been made by both America and the Philippines. It has been indeed a long and tedious process, to the point that the outcome was disappointing sometimes,” said Duterte.