Indian Catholic News

Philippine Church rejects putting historic bell in museum

Borongan Diocese calls Senate plan a 'disrespectful mangling of history'.

Church and government leaders receive the church bells from United States government representatives in Manila on Dec. 11. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

Philippine Church leaders have voiced opposition to a government plan to keep one of three plundered bells returned by the United States this week in a museum.

In a statement, the bishop and clergy of Borongan Diocese rejected the plan, saying the bells were sacred artifacts that call Catholics to worship.

"[The bells] especially call [the people] to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.... They belong in their church, not in a museum," read the statement.

On Dec. 11, the United States returned the three bells, which were swiped by American forces as war trophies from the central Philippine town of Balangiga in 1901.

On the same day, Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri asked the government to "share with the Filipino people" one of the bells by placing it in the National Museum.

He has filed a Senate resolution seeking the transfer of one of the bells "for the appreciation and education of the general public, especially the youth."

He said the proposal aims to keep the youth "informed of the historical significance” of the bell.

Zubiri said keeping one of the bells in the National Museum would give many Filipinos the chance to see for themselves this religious artifact and remind them of the role it played in one of the bloodiest chapters in the Philippine-American War.

Church leaders in Borongan, however, called the proposal "a disrespectful mangling of history and the right of the Catholic faithful of Balangiga to their private property."

They said that while they recognize the national significance of the bells, they also "desire that they be correctly appreciated by all Filipinos."

Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan said the proposal in the Senate "does violence to history and the sacred character and purpose of the bells."

Local historian Rolando Borrinaga said the "fundamental premise throughout the campaign" for the return of the bells was that they be returned to their church of origin.

Borrinaga was a leading campaigner for the return of the bells.

Residents of Balangiga also opposed Zubiri's proposal.

"While our erstwhile colonizers have returned the bells, our compatriots are thinking of keeping some of the booty for themselves," said Philip Jude Acidre, leader of the youth group Voice of the East.

He said that with the return of the bells, "this sad episode in our nation's history comes to a close."

The taking of the bells and the American sacking of Samar province came after Filipino freedom fighters ambushed and killed at least 40 American soldiers sitting down to breakfast in Balangiga on Sept. 28, 1901.

At least 28 Filipinos were also killed in what historians say was the "single worst defeat" of American forces during the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War.

In reprisal, the Americans rounded up and killed some 5,000 Balangiga villagers. All were male residents over 10 years old. The incident became known as the Balangiga Massacre.

Ronald Reyes contributed to this report from Tacloban City.

Source: UCAN

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