Please can we have our bells back? Philippine town asks U.S

Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:57pm EST
 
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By Nathan Layne

BALANGIGA, Philippines (Reuters) - In the devastated coastal Philippine town of Balangiga, a Roman Catholic belfry with a maroon steeple rises from the rubble, a battered symbol of resistance for a people with mixed feelings about the U.S. military now helping them survive.

After one of the world's most powerful typhoons roared across the central Philippines and killed more than 4,000 people, U.S. military helicopters are flying in aid to desperate regions such as this once-picturesque fishing village of 12,600 people in ravaged Samar province.

It was here 112 years ago that one of the darkest chapters of American colonialism began: the island-wide massacre by U.S. soldiers of thousands of Filipinos, including women and children, in response to the killing of 48 U.S. soldiers by rebels.

After months of bloodshed, animosity has festered for more than a century over the ultimate insult: seizure of the town's church bells by U.S. troops. In recent years, the Philippine government has demanded their return.

Marciano Deladia, a chief aide to the mayor, and other residents are thankful for the U.S. packets of rice and other food. "But we want our bells back," he said.

The town built the belfry in 1998 in the hope that the United States would return three bells it says were stolen as trophies during the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War. One is believed to have been rung to signal the start of the attack.

Two of the bells are at the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. The third is part of a travelling museum now at a base in South Korea.

"HISTORICAL HERITAGE"   Continued...