DC forum highlights ‘happy ending’ to Balangiga Bells saga
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A forum on Jan. 22 brought together renowned speakers who were among significant contributors to the successful effort to return of the Balangiga bells to the Philippines in December 2018.
The Philippine Embassy and the US-Philippines Society co-hosted “Return of the Balangiga Bells: A Historical Perspective and Significance” at the Philippine Chancery Annex.
The Balangiga Bells were returned to the Philippines with an arrival ceremony in Villamor Air Base on Dec. 11, 2018, after having spent years in the United States as war trophies from the Philippine-American War at the end of the 19thcentury. They were handed over to the San Lorenzo de Martir Parish Church in Balangiga, Eastern Samar on 15 Dec.15, 2018.
The panelists were Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, Dr. Joseph H. Felter; Philippine Honorary Consul to Florida, Dr. Henry B. Howard; and Commanding Officer of Naval Supply Systems Command (1988-1991), Rear Admiral Daniel McKinnon, Jr. SC. USN (Ret.).
Admiral McKinnon provided the historical background of the bells, while Consul Howard and Deputy Assistant Secretary Felter recounted the dedicated efforts exerted by Filipinos and Americans alike who worked tirelessly for the bells’ homecoming.
Representative Donald Bacon (R-NE 2nd District) who was present during the forum also underscored the significance of the bell’s return to PH-US friendship and alliance in his brief remarks.
Ambassador Romualdez again expressed the Philippine government’s gratitude to the United States for “doing what is right”, and further underscored the strong people-to-people ties between the two countries.
“We never forget friends. Once you are a friend of ours, you are a friend forever. The latest survey indicates that 85 percent of Filipinos trust the United States as an ally. We trust that this country will do what is right”, the Ambassador remarked.
“The return of these bells will never be forgotten by the people of the Philippines,” he further emphasized.
“The forum provided an unusually comprehensive and insightful happy-ending account of a successful effort by a committed team of players both inside and outside of government working for years against the odds with many dramatic near-misses along the way. Presentations underscored the significance of the Bells return in addressing a historical grievance, promoting reconciliation, strengthening people-to-people ties and fostering strategic cooperation. The US-Philippines Society and its members were privileged to have played a role in supporting this remarkable initiative,” said US-Philippines Society Executive Director Hank Hendrickson who also served as moderator.