Church hits call to display one Balangiga bell in National Museum

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 13 2018 03:54 PM | Updated as of Dec 13 2018 04:20 PM

The Balangiga Bells are displayed at the Villamor Airbase Parade grounds after the turnover ceremony between the Philippines and the United States of America, Dec. 11, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The Catholic Church on Thursday rejected a proposal to transfer 1 of the 3 historic bells of Balangiga to the National Museum.

The Diocese of Borongan, which has jurisdiction over Balangiga, Eastern Samar, said it won't allow the transfer of any of the bells.

"We, the Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese of Borongan collectively object to and collectively stand against the transfer of one or all of the Bells of Balangiga from their historical and rightful habitat, which is the Parish Church of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, Diocese of Borongan," it said in a statement.

The diocese issued the statement in reaction to Senator Miguel Zubiri's Senate resolution 965 calling on the Philippine government to display 1 of the bells in the National Museum for the "appreciation and general education" of the public.

"Senate Resolution 965 does violence to history and the sacred character and purpose of the Balangiga Bells. It must be rejected," the diocese said.

Zubiri filed the resolution in light of the return of the Balangiga bells in the country, more than a century since American soldiers took it as war booty.

While the Church recognizes the national significance of the bells, it argued that these must stay in Balangiga since any move to transfer the bells would be a "disrespectful mangling of history and the right of the Catholic faithful of Balangiga to their private property."

"The Balangiga Encounter at which the bells played a role happened in Balangiga. It is only right that they be returned to Balangiga and stay in Balangiga," the diocese said.

"The Balangiga Bells are sacramentals, that is, they are also sacred artifacts that call the faithful to prayer and worship. But they especially call them to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the highest form of prayer and worship for Catholics. Therefore, they belong in the Church, not in a museum," it added.

Zubiri said it was arrogant for the Church leaders not to share the bells.

"If they don’t want, so be it. But how arrogant can they think that it is disrespect to the history? Ile-lend lang naman. Kung ayaw nyo di wag (it will just be borrowed. If they don't want, so be it)," Zubiri said.