All three Balangiga Bells are in Japan on the eve of their official return to the Philippines on Dec. 11, according to the United States embassy in Manila.
In a photo released by the embassy on Monday, two US Air Force airmen are shown preparing the three Balangiga Bells to be transported to the Philippines at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.
US embassy press attache Molly Koscina said at a press conference the war artifacts’ return clearly demonstrates the US’ commitment to its alliance, partnership and friendship with the Philippines.
“The return of the bells is the end of many years of efforts by many, many different people to ensure the bells’ return to the church where they were taken,” Koscina said.
“It required negotiations and lots of efforts and even overcoming legal obstacles to make it happen and there are many people to thank for the return of the bells including Secretary (James) Mattis and Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana,” she added.
More than 100 years in US custody and half a century of negotiation for its repatriation to the Philippines, the meeting between Mattis and Lorenzana in 2017 was the “breakthrough” that made the bells’ return possible, Koscina said.
“I think the breakthrough was Secretary Mattis and Secretary Lorenzana’s meeting last October,” she said.
“Later that same day, Secretary Mattis met with President (Rodrigo) Duterte and in that meeting Secretary Mattis committed to making it his personal intent to do all he could do to return the bell,” she added.
Koscina said replicas of the two Balangiga Bells will be installed in Wyoming. The two bells at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming formed part of a memorial for fallen US soldiers.
“We will have replicas of the original bells,” she said.#