So you do feel that it is just a matter of time before we'll be getting two
bells back...three bells back?
I honestly couldn't say, what we're concentrating on in our group is to build up
positive relationships between Balangiga and the 9th Infantry Regiment. Those
are the two sides that were involved in this incident; those are the two sides
that should be talking. Not necessarily about the bells. And I believe that
there are people within the 9th Infantry Regiment who feel its time to "kiss and
make up" so to speak. And we've been acting as a channel to try and get that to
happen. We know that there is some interest within the 9th Infantry in getting
some people to Balangiga, to meet the Banlangiganons, as a sign of friendship.
We know the war is over, let's move on! And certainly that is also the way
Balangiga feels. I spent a lot of time out there. These people are not anti-American,
not anti-military and they don't bear a grudge...they would love to have their
Every year they have this wonderful re-enactment and if you're in the
Philippines, in Samar, September 28th, go down to Balangiga. It's a wonderful
day; its not a fiesta. It's a commemoration, but they have this wonderful
re-enactment in the afternoon. I go down there; we've had Jean Wohl down there;
we've had veterans--representatives of the American veterans, treated with
absolute hospitality and friendship. They're delighted to see visitors to go
along to see their town. They are a lovely people and they have a very effective
mayor, Catalina Camenforte--she's a battler, she's a really lovely lady. And the
chances are if you go there you'll probably end up being invited to her house
for this enormous lunch. Something not a lot of people know about but it's a
wonderful experience. And it's an experience I'd like the 9th Infantry to share.
Because if they went there I think they would be treated like kings.
Reconciliation I think, is what we should be looking for. With reconciliation,
the chances of the bells being returned are very good. But they're certainly not
going to be returned by political rhetoric, by cursing...it's just not going to
happen. In fact when journalists here in the [Philippine] Star suggested--I
think it was Alejandro Roces, suggested that the bells should be returned on
July 4th. I think that's a wonderful idea.
The bells right now are on display in Wyoming and in Korea, Have the Balangiganons indicated to you what they will do with the bells once they are
returned? I mean will they be on display, in the town plaza?
The bells will go back where they came from. They will go into the church tower;
into the belfry. There's a new belfry that's been built for it. There was some
nonsense, some strange rumor which I finally tracked down that the bells were
going to be put into a monument to American atrocities, and that has never been
on the cards. When I heard that I was just gob smacked. If the bells are
returned, they go back into the church belfry, that's where they belong. So
they're not going to be used for any anti-Americanism.
There is actually a monument down there in Balangiga to both sides. And it's
rather heartwarming to go down there. Especially when you've researched the
thing and so all the people have become very real; the [American] soldiers and
the Filipinos. And you see their names engraved side-by-side on the side of the
monument. And every year they light little candles in commemoration, and wreaths
are laid. So it's rather heart-warming.