One of the three 100 year-old bells taken by American soldiers as spoils of war in is set to be returned to Saint Peter Church and Saint Paul Church in Bauang, La Union.
The bell was rung one last time after a ceremony and mass at West Point’s Most Holy Trinity Catholic Chapel, attended by the Philippine consulate general.
The massive bell resided at a chapel at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for decades. The other two are at F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Camp Red Cloud in South Korea.
Filipino freedom fighters from the village of Balangiga tolled the bells as a signal to ambush American soldiers in the so-called Balangiga massacre in 1901 during the Philippine-American War. According to historical accounts, over 40 American soldiers were killed in that surprise attack. The success by the Filipinos was short-lived as American troops were able to recapture the village; they took the bells as war trophies.
Two US Navy veterans were instrumental in returning the bell to its home: Dan McKinnon and Dennis Wright.
According to a report in Stars and Stripes, an American newspaper operated by the US Department of Defense, McKinnon learned that another Philippine bell hung at West Point.
"I started talking to West Point all last year," McKinnon said. An inscription on the bells suggested it was from a church Bauang. Wright, on the other hand, asked help from two professors from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila to research the subject. Church records showed that the description of the bell matched the one at West Point.
The clamor to return the bells was first brought up by former president Fidel V. Ramos in 1994 to the then US president Bill Clinton, but his request was denied.