Bells of Balangiga

Satellite image of the Balangiga Bells Memorial at F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming

The Philippine-American War is long over and the the two countries have maintained a very long friendship up to now. Yet there remains one last contention between the two nations over the war and it is the return of the bells of Balangiga. The bells of Balangiga are three church bells that were taken by the U.S. Army as war booty. Two of the bells are in display at the F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming in the United States, while the other is with the 9th Infantry Regiment, currently stationed in South Korea.

If you know a bit of Philippine history, Balangiga should be familiar because this is the Eastern Samar town where the Balangiga massacre took place. On September 28, 1901, guerrilla Filipinos attacked a company of 70 American soldiers garrisoned in the town and killed most of them. In retaliation, the U.S. Army, under the direction of Gen. Jacob H. Smith, initiated a program of killing thousands of men, women, and children over the age of ten on the whole island of Samar. Smith wanted Samar converted into a “howling wilderness.” The bells of the Balangiga Church, which were used to signal the initial attack, were taken in the ensuing campaign.

After the war, numerous efforts have been taken to persuade the U.S. Army to return all the bells to Balangiga, but the Americans have rebuffed the advances.

Anyway, the thumbnail above shows and links to the location of the Balangiga Bells Memorial at the Trophy Park of the Warren Air Force Base. Actually, I have no definitive proof that I have correctly pinpointed the bells’ location. Warren Air Force Base is easy enough to find in Google Maps, but there’s no indication anywhere where the memorial is. But I do have photographic evidence to strongly suggest that I have correctly identified the memorial in the satellite image.

First of all, the photograph on this SF Gate article shows that the memorial is a curved brick structure. Next, the pictures on two more articles, “The Bells of Balangiga Revisited” and “The Balangiga Incident” show the surrounding areas in the vicinity (ignore the double exposure in the photo in the latter article). These pictures show that there’s a concrete path leading to the memorial, and a road, trees, and two buildings behind it. The roof of the building on the right of the photos matches the one found in Google Maps, almost directly north of the memorial.

One problem I have is that in the SF Gate photo and the double-exposed photo, there’s an enormous tree right behind the memorial that’s not visible in Google Maps. Well, a little more research via Microsoft Live (update: and also Yahoo! Maps) shows that there was a tree there, but it was apparently cut down during the past few years.

Satellite images of the Bells of Balangiga Memorial at Cheyenne, Wyoming from Live Maps and Yahoo! Maps.

I’m pretty confident then that I found the exact spot on Google Maps. I’m even willing to bet that I’m right.

If you want to know more about this sordid episode of Philippine-American history, there’s no better place than in the Balangiga pages of Rolando O. Borrinaga, an Inquirer columnist and amateur historian that’s written quite a lot of material about the history of Eastern Visayas. He is also quite instrumental in drumming up support for the return of the bells.

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Posted on
May 27, 2007
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