BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, September 28, led the 116th commemoration of Balangiga Encounter Day, calling those participated in the uprising “real patriots.”
“I have to say this, because talagang gusto ko… In honor of these poor souls na they did not want maybe to be under a foreign power. Tama ‘yan. Tama ang ginawa ninyo,” President Duterte said in his speech, referring to the insurrection that happened more than a century ago.
The President laid a wreath in the monument of Capt. Valeriano Abanador, the leader of the Samarenos who attacked American soldiers in Balangiga in September 1901.
The President said that while the Americans committed misdeeds in the past, including their reprisals against the Filipinos in Balangiga, the incident is already water under the bridge.
The Philippines and the US fought numerous wars together as allies based on their common interest, he said.
For instance, American forces played a major role in the government’s fight against Islamic militants in Marawi City, helping Filipino forces gain equipment and vital information.
Although the US is active in Mindanao, the President however said that he will not allow American soldiers to directly participate in actual combat.
At the same time, President Duterte said he is glad that there are efforts in the US aimed at bringing back to the Philippines the Balangiga bells.
While the process is circuitous, he expressed hopes that one day, the bells will be brought back to Balangiga, noting those war booties touched in the core of everyone’s existence as a Filipino.
“I hope that Congress of America will give President Trump the authority to return the bells to us… just return it and we would be happy,” Duterte said.
“We are not angry at you. We are just saying that those bells would touch in the core of our existence as a Filipino,” he added.
To give due recognition to those who perished in Balangiga fighting for freedom, President Duterte raised the possibility of conferring the Order of Lapu-Lapu to their descendants as long as experts in history identify their lineage.
“They deserve the medals. Without necessarily, you know… America will understand that. Eh sabi ko, we have to cooperate with them. I can only say that — thank you for the help,” he said.
Also during his speech, the President told Samarenos about his firm commitment to fight illegal drugs and terrorism in the country as well as rampant corruption in government.
“If we do not fight the ills of our country — terrorism, drugs, which are destroying our children, ‘yung sacrifice ng mga kababayan natin magpakamatay would have been ought to a naught,” Duterte said.
On September 28, 1901, hundreds of native fighters mostly armed with bolos staged a successful surprise attack on US troops in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.
Described as the “worst single defeat” of the US military in the Philippines, that event became known in history as the Balangiga Massacre. Of the 74 men of the Company C of the US military, 36 were killed during the attack, including all commissioned officers.
Eight of the wounded died later during the escape by bancas to Basey town and four were missing and presumed dead. The natives suffered 28 deaths and 22 wounded.
The US military implemented a “kill and burn” policy to take back Samar from October 1901 to March 1902. Brig. Gen. Jacob Smith of the US Army gave orders to kill anybody capable of bearing arms (especially 10 years old an above) during the combat operations that reduced Samar into a “howling wilderness”. The campaign was blamed for the alleged disappearance of 50,000 people in Samar.
US forces also took the town’s three church bells with the smallest one now on permanent display at the traveling museum of the 9th US Infantry, now stationed in South Korea.
The two bigger bells were brought to the US by returning 11th Infantry soldiers to their home station at the former Fort D.A. Russel, now the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyomin