Possible return of stolen Balangiga church bells is victory of Philippine independent foreign policy & struggles, not American benevolence

Speakers at Kamuning Bakery Café’s non-partisan Pandesal Forum in Quezon City  were Balangiga Battle hero Capt. Eugenio Daza’s grandson and president of Kaanak 1896 (association of descendants of the Philippine Revolution and Phil-American War era) Eugenio Roy Daza, “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” film director & co-writer Khavn de la Cruz and producer/co-writer Achinette Villamor, geopolitics analysts Butch Valdes and George Siy of Integrated Development Studies Institute (IDSI). Moderator is writer Wilson Lee Flores. The Pandesal Forum agrees that the possible and long overdue return of the Balangiga bells is a victory of Philippines’ independent foreign policy and struggles, not American benevolence.

Return Balangiga church bells, other loot, issue official apology
University of the Philippines (U.P.) Prof. Bobby Tuazon of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) gave this message to the Pandesal Forum: “The return of the Balangiga Bells is long overdue and a historical injustice of American colonizers. The return should not be seen as American benevolence, but rather as a victory of the Filipino people who have fought hard and long for their return.”
Prof. Tuazon added: “Much of our history, by the way, was looted by the American aggressors during the Philippine-American War—relics, archives, treasures, etc. remain in the U.S. until today—are in museums such as the Smithsonian, collectors, etc. These should also be returned.”
Tuazon said: “No apology has been given for the 1 million Filipinos—revolutionaries and civilians—who died during the Philippine-American War. If the U.S. really cares for ‘friendship’, they should at least apologize.”

Retelling history from viewpoint of the defeated… Balangiga: Howling Wilderness In the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino organized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) from August 15 to 21, the Pandesal Forum highly recommends that the public watch watch the award-winning “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” which had won 3 times as best film at the QCinema 2017, the Urian and Famas.

The artists behind “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” are director and co-scriptwriter Khavn de la Cruz, co-writers Achinette Villamor and Jerry B. Gracio. There are no celebrity stars in the cast led by Justine Samson, Pio Del Rio, Warren Tuaño.
Producer and co-scriptwriter Achinette Villamor said the injustice that happened in Balangiga is “part of the numerous national wounds in the consciousness of the Philippines”. She said: “History is usually written by the victors, such as many accounts of the Philippine-American War whoch were mostly authored by the colonizers, the white men, there is a need to tell history from the points of view of those who were defeated and conquered, like us Filipinos. The Balangiga film project is one such attempt.”

It is unique that this movie stands out for its good attempt at artistry, its uncommon courage and its seeking to retell a sad, controversial and violent episode in Philippine history from the refreshing, innocent perspectives of little children.

This well-crafted movie is set in 1901 in seaside town of Balangiga in the Philippines’ third largest island of Samar. Eight-year-old Kulas flees the town with his grandfather and their carabao to escape U.S. General Jacob Smith’s controversial “Kill & Burn” military order. He finds an infant amid a sea of corpses and together, the two boys struggle to survive the American military occupation.

Remembering history, to create a better future… Read this U.S. account of the past J. P. Lawrence wrote last year in the “New York Review of Books” on this sad episode of Philippine history which followed local Filipino rebels decisive military victory in Balangiga over U.S. occupation troops:

“US troops returned to Balangiga in force. They bombarded the town with cannons, and set it ablaze. The three bells remained in the ruins of the church. But the retribution did not end there. General Jacob Smith told his troops he wanted a ‘howling wilderness’ and ordered any male over the age of ten killed. ‘I want no prisoners,’ he said. ‘I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better it will please me.’ Theodore Roosevelt, who was responsible for the conduct of the war in the Philippines for part of 1902, had earlier reflected on the justification for such harsh tactics. ‘In a fight with savages, where the savages themselves perform deeds of hideous cruelty, a certain proportion of whites are sure to do the same thing,’ he said. In the reprisals for Balangiga, US troops are said to have killed as many as 50,000 Filipinos.”

Lawrence also wrote: “Forty-eight US soldiers died at Balangiga, America’s worst military defeat since the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. To commemorate their lost men—or perhaps to avenge them—American troops brought the three bells of Balangiga home with them. Over the next century, the bells passed through various military bases. Two are now in Wyoming, and one is on an army base in South Korea, displayed to memorialize the battle.”

History—whether sad, happy, tragic or triumphant—is part of our present and influences our future. May these two indie movies on our history not just entertain, but hopefully educate, awaken, conscienticize and inspire us to help create a better and more just future.

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