FILE PHOTO: One of the historic Balangiga Bells | Photo courtesy: Philippine Embassy in Washington DC
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to witness the arrival and the formal turnover of the historic Balangiga bells at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Tuesday (December 11), according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Lorenzana said part of the program will be the signing of a document that will attest to the Philippines’ acceptance of the bells from the United States.
“I will go around with Ambassador Sung Kim [para] tingnan namin ang bells (to take a look at the bells) . Then I will sign a document that I accepted the bells from them. Ibibigay ko sa kaniya (I will give it to him). There will be three speeches: one from Secretary Mattis, to be read by one of his representatives, then Ambassador Sung Kim, then me, tapos si Presidente (and finally the President). Initially sabi nila, hind magsasalita si Presidente (Initially they said the President will not be speaking). He will be there, sabi niya (he said),” Lorenzana said.
Photographs provided by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines last Saturday show the bells being pulled out from display and readied for transport from the U.S Air Force Bases in Cheyenne, Wyoming to the Philippines.
A Balangiga bell being prepared for transport . | Photo courtesy: US Embassy in Manila
After their arrival at Villamor Air Base, the bells will be transported back to their hometown in Balangiga, Samar on December 15.
The return of the bells marks a significant moment in the history of the Philippines and US relations.
Photo courtesy: US Embassy in Manila
“That will be a closure, yes. that will be a closure. Kasi (because) the first request or first longing for us to bring back the bell was made by the leader of those who attacked the Americans, by the name of Eugenio Daza in 1935, when he was still alive,” Lorenzana explained.
Meanwhile, negotiation is underway as to whether or not President Duterte will proceed to visiting the United States next year, now that the Balangiga bells have returned.
“Si President naman sinabi niya (the President has said), ‘I do not hate America. I just hate some of the people there.’ Pinag-uusapan na (its in the works), Ambassador Romualdez is here. He’s trying to talk to the President to go there next year,” the hopeful Defense Secretary said. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rosalie Coz)