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National Artist Abueva joins clamor for return of Balangiga bells

Respected national artist and sculptor Napoleon Abueva has added his voice to the clamor of concerned faithful for the return of the historical Church bells of Balangiga in Eastern Samar. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Abueva was saddened that not even one of the bells has been returned to the belfry of St. Lawrence church, which will celebrate its annual feast on Aug. 10. "Sad and strange as it may seem, the animosity has fueled some of the elderly Filipinos to nurture the fact that the Filipino-American war of 1898-1901 has not realty been brought to a final conclusion due to the missing bells," Abueva said n a statement posted on the CBCP website. Abueva, the sculptor and builder of the Balangiga Monument, also called on US Ambassador Kristie Kenney to lend her "helping hand" in the return of the bells. He added he had to fabricate a cast bronze bell at the monument’s belfry. American cavalry troops hauled off the bells to the US as "war booty" 106 years ago. The bells are now displayed on a granite monument near the flagpole at the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. The bells were rung to signal an attack by native bolo fighters that almost wiped out a company of US Marines during the infamous "Balangiga Massacre" on Sept. 28, 1901. It was the worst single defeat of the US Army during the Philippine-American War at the turn of the century. The encounter in 1901 claimed the lives of 50 American soldiers and 28 Filipino freedom fighters. It was followed by the deaths of thousands of Samareños, mostly civilians 10 years old and above, when the American military retaliated with a "kill-and-burn" policy imposed by General Jacob Smith. This policy of hatred and revenge was aimed to reduce Samar into a "howling wilderness." During former President Fidel Ramos’ term, the belfry of the church was refurbished to welcome the return of the bells. - GMANews.TV