Three church bells seized by American troops as battle trophies greater than a century in the past had been returned to the Philippines on Tuesday in a transfer lengthy demanded by Filipino leaders, together with the present president, who’s vital of Washington and has moved nearer to China.

U.S. protection officers and the American ambassador handed again the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippine protection chief in a solemn ceremony at an air pressure base within the capital, closing a darkish episode within the treaty allies’ love-hate relationship.

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“It’s my nice honor to be right here at this closing of a painful chapter in our historical past,” U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim stated. “Our relationship has withstood the exams of historical past and prospers right now.”

Protection Secretary James Mattis has stated the handover is a vital gesture of friendship and is within the U.S. nationwide safety curiosity. Some U.S. veterans and officers had opposed the return of the bells, calling them memorials to American battle useless.

The bells are revered by Filipinos as symbols of nationwide satisfaction, and their arrival on a U.S. army transport aircraft and the handover ceremony had been proven reside on nationwide TV. Two of the bells had been displayed for many years at F.E. Warren Air Drive Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the third was with the U.S. Military in South Korea.

After being colonized by Spain for greater than three centuries, the Philippines turned a U.S. possession in 1898 in a brand new colonial period that started with the outbreak of the Philippine-American Conflict.

American occupation troops took the bells from a Catholic church following an assault by machete-wielding Filipino villagers, who killed 48 U.S. troopers within the city of Balangiga on central Samar island in 1901 in one of many U.S. Military’s worst single-battle losses of that period.

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One of many bells had been sounded to sign the assault by the villagers, a few of whom had been disguised as girls who hid within the church close to an American garrison, historian Rolando Borrinaga stated.

The Individuals retaliated, reportedly killing 1000’s of villagers above the age of 10, and a U.S. normal, Jacob Smith, ordered Samar to be was a “howling wilderness,” Borrinaga stated.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has had an antagonistic perspective towards the U.S. and has revitalized ties with China and Russia, requested Washington in his state of the nation handle final yr to “return them to us, that is painful for us.”

“Give us again these Balangiga bells. … They’re a part of our nationwide heritage,” Duterte stated within the speech, attended by the U.S. ambassador and different diplomats.

Philippine Protection Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated with the decision of the difficulty, “It is time for therapeutic, it’s time for closure, it’s time to look forward as two nations ought to with a shared historical past as allies.”

Duterte has referred to violence by Individuals in Balangiga and on southern Jolo island within the early 1900s in public criticism of the U.S. authorities after it raised issues about his brutal crackdown on unlawful medicine through which 1000’s have died.

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A breakthrough on the bells challenge got here with an modification to a U.S. regulation banning the return of battle relics and memorials to overseas international locations. That allowed the homecoming of the Balanggiga bells, stated Lorenzana, who noticed the bells final yr in Wyoming, the place he was notified by Mattis of the U.S. choice.

Philippine officers led by Duterte are to show over the bells on Saturday to officers and the church in Balangiga, a small coastal city the place villagers applauded whereas watching troops on TV screens pry open the picket crates containing the bells.

“The Bells of Balangiga will as soon as once more peal, it should nonetheless remind the individuals of Balangiga of what occurred within the city sq. greater than a century in the past,” Lorenzana stated. “However we’d additionally have a look at that historical past with extra understanding and acceptance.”

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Related Press journalists Alberto “Bullit” Marquez and Cecilia Forbes contributed to this report.

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