Surely, Filipinos joyously received the Balangiga bells from its colonial master, the United States of America (US). Many opinions and reflections had been shared in public about the Balangiga bells. What is the significance of the return of the Balangiga bells? Have Filipinos be emancipated from US domination now that the Balangiga bells had been returned? Who will be benefited of the “tourist attraction” in Balangiga, Eastern Samar because of the Balangiga bells? Would the bells alleviate people from poverty, hardships and sufferings in one of the poorest provinces in the country?
In all of the excitement and thanksgiving, we must assert that Balangiga bells must ring for genuine independence of the Philippines in order to solemnify its return.
The Filipino-American war that started on February 4, 1899 in Manila led to a million Filipinos killed, including the massacre of men and boys ‘able to carry a gun’ in Balangiga, when the Americans colonized the Philippines. The bells were taken as ‘war booty.’ It was displayed in military installations of the US. How ironic, if not barbaric, for the conqueror to display the remnants of a most treacherous war act in these modern times!
Hard to only be thankful for the bells’ return—but we must also be reflective of its meaning: how we are still ruled over indirectly by our former colonizers. When the bells ring again, it must peal with our ever-burning hearts’ desire for true independence.
The American forces landed in the Philippines in May 1898. With them was General Emilio Aguinaldo who stayed in exile in Hongkong after the Treaty of Biak-na-Bato, which “ended” the Philippine revolution on the mind of Aguinaldo, but the Katipuneros left behind by Aguinaldo had carried out the revolution until the Philippine independence was proclaimed by a leader coming from foreign exile, Aguinaldo.
The June 12, 1898 declaration of Philippine Independence was not really an independence for the Filipinos. The Americans deceived Aguinaldo and other Katipuneros. While the Katipuneros were busy in preparing for the proclamation of the first Philippine Republic after the proclamation of the so-called Philippine independence, the American forces maneuvered and forced the remaining Spanish forces at Fort Santiago to surrender to them. That was called by historians the “mocked battle” of Manila Bay. It was happened a month after the proclamation of the Philippine Independence, August 13, 1898.
In addition to that treacherous act of the American forces in the Philippines, the United States had settled the Spanish-American War in 1898 with the signing of the Treaty of Parish on December 10, 1898 that sold to the Americans the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guan and Philippines for 20 million US dollars. The Filipinos did not realize that dastardly and immoral maneuver of the Americans until 1902. The announcement of the United States that the Filipino-American War had ended came on July 4, 1902, though the revolutionaries in Mindanao sustained their resistance until 1916.
The Balangiga massacre was happened during the Filipino-American War. The heroism of the Balangiga revolutionaries in 1901 was covered by the cries and sufferings of the remnants of the massacre of more than ten thousand Filipinos and the burning of the whole town of Balangiga. They had able to punish around 100 colonial forces, but the retaliation made by the Americans was gruesome, shocking and horrible. The Balangiga bells were taken as war booty by the Americans—they are proof then and now of the fascist atrocities of the Americans.
Celebrating the return of the of the Balangiga bells is right and proper because the bells symbolize heroism and martyrdom of the Filipinos who fought for their independence.
The place of the joyful thanksgiving and jubilation must be celebrated in the context of the continuing struggle for genuine independence from all clutches of foreign domination not only from the United States, but also from China and other foreign superpowers that aim to pillage the country’s resources.
The people of Balangiga and the Filipino people shall be more blissful if the Philippines as sovereign nation will be given its right to enjoy complete freedom and embark on nation-building on the premise of national industrialization and agricultural development.