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US returns church bells taken from Philippines in 1901

After 117 years, the US returned the three original church bells taken by American soldiers as war booty during the Philippine-American war in 1901.

A US Air Force plane bearing the three historic bells landed in the Philippines on Tuesday.

The US officials led by US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, handed the bells to Philippine Defence

Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, at a Philippine Air Force base in Manila.

“It is a most memorable day of our nation’s history and we celebrate it with deep gratitude and respect for all those,

who helped to make this day happen,” Lorenzana said during the handover ceremony.

He expressed hope that the return of the church bells would bring closure to the painful conflict 117 years ago.

“The bells of Balangiga will once again ring.

“They will still remind the people of Balangiga of what happened in the town square more than a century ago, but

they would also look at that history with more understanding and acceptance.

“Their sound will be of joy, revelry and remembrance of shared histories and ideals of new beginnings,” he said.

Local Filipinos from Balangiga, a seaside town in Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines, used the

Church bells to signal an attack against American soldiers at the dawn of September 28, 1901.

Two of the bells have been on display at the Warren Air Force base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and another at the US

military facility in South Korea.

A number of Philippine presidents and defence secretaries have demanded the return of Balangiga bells.

During his second State of the Nation Address in 2017, Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, specifically

demanded the return of the bells.

“Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national

heritage. Please return them. This is painful for us,” Duterte said then.

Duterte, who was initially scheduled to witness the handover ceremony on Tuesday, did not attend.

After the handover ceremony held in Manila, the three bells will be flown by a Philippine Air Force plane to

Eastern Samar for their return to Balangiga town church officials on Saturday.

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