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Looted Balangiga Church Bells Returned to Philippines 117 Years Later

Three church bells have been returned to an Eastern Samar church in the Philippines after U.S. troops took them 117 years ago.

The bronze treasures were seized during the 1901 Philippine-American War in retaliation after Filipinos killed 48 out of 74 US troops. In revenge, American forces led the Balangiga Massacre, in which about 2,500 Filipinos were killed. The bells were taken as a winning war profit.

The U.S. Embassy in August had announced the return after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had asked for their return in a 2017 speech; however, the country has asked for the bells for decades. They are viewed as a symbol of Philippine independence.

U.S. veterans and politicians think differently. They believe the bells are tributes to the U.S. troops killed in combat and have asked to reconsider the return. One of the bells was placed with the US 9th Infantry Regiment in Korea while the others were at the former 11th Infantry Regiment base in Wyoming.

The bells were flown to Manila earlier this week for Saturday’s ceremony featuring Duterte joining his joyous citizens in Balangiga, BBC reported.

“Nobody, but nobody, can claim a singular credit for the generous act of the Americans,” Duterte said to the crowd. “The credit goes to the American people and to the Filipino people, period.”