For whom the Balangiga Bells toll
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
This quote from philosopher George Santayana perhaps best summarizes the importance of the return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines by the US government on Tuesday, more than a century after they were taken as war booty by US colonial forces.
It is best to remember that the US and the Philippines once fought in a brutal war, where many Filipinos were killed in retaliation for a surprise attack on US soldiers on September 28, 1901 in Balangiga, Samar.
These bells represent the killing of over 40 American soldiers by Filipino fighters, as well as the massacre of thousands of Filipinos as ordered by General Jacob Smith who said, “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn, the better it will please me... The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness...”
As President Duterte said in his 2017 State of the Nation Address, “Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process…"
Today, however, both countries are close friends and allies. It is a friendship rooted in shared values such as freedom and democracy.
These are values that both peoples should continue to believe in as they respectively work on nation building and on helping build a better world.
So, when the Balangiga Bells toll once again in Samar on Saturday, let us remember for whom they toll.