Sung Y. Kim

Speech on the Return of the Bells of Balangiga

delivered 11 December 2018

Audio mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Magandang hapon. Good afternoon. Thank you all for joining us today. It is a tremendous honor for me to be a part of this historic occasion.

I’m proud and grateful to be joined by Executive Secretary Medialdea, Defense Secretary Lorenzana, Ambassador Romualdez, and outstanding leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

I'm also very happy to see so many distinguished friends, including senators and congresspeople, to witness this historic event. 

We have two very special guests from the United States who traveled all the way here for this momentous event: INDO-PACOM Commander Admiral Davidson and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joe Felter.


We are gathered to welcome the return of the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines people. It has been a long road home. Many Filipinos and Americans worked tirelessly for decades to make today possible. I’m so glad many of them are here today, including my friends Henry, Dennis, and Joe.

Since President Ramos first raised the issue of [the] bells with President Clinton in 1993, virtually every Philippine President has pressed for the Bells’ return.


As the video we just saw reminds us, President Duterte made a forceful appeal for the Bells’ return during his 2017 State of the Nation address.1 I was there and heard his passionate call loud and clear.

President Duterte followed up with a personal appeal to our Secretary of Defense James Mattis who, like all of us here today, recognized that returning the Bells is the right thing to do and that, by returning the bells, the U.S. could restore to its friend and ally an important symbol of national independence; and also demonstrate our commitment to a relationship of two sovereign nations, two equal partners, and mutual respect.

SecDef James Mattis on the Return of the Bells of Balangiga

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's Speech on the Bells' Return

The bells before us are the original bells that hung in Balangiga’s San Lorenzo de Martir church. The history of these bells spans the entire relationship between the United States and the Philippines. And in the process, they have touched many lives. And their return underscores the enduring friendship between our countries, our shared values, and shared sacrifices.

This solemn ceremony reminds us of the many brave Filipinos and Americans who fought for freedom. In 1901, our two countries were adversaries. That painful conflict soon ended, and our countries became partners and friends. We fought together for freedom and to protect democratic values across the Indo-Pacific region. In World War II and in Korea, our soldiers fought, bled, died, and sacrificed side by side. Together they made possible the peace and prosperity that we enjoy today.

I recently had the privilege of awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to 40 brave Filipino veterans of World War II. It was truly inspiring to hear about their courage, commitment, and sacrifice. And thanking them in person was a deeply moving experience for me and in a sense an appropriate prelude to today’s ceremony.

The return of the Bells lets us reflect on the U.S.-Philippines relationship -- where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. Having now served as -- over two years as U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, I can tell you with great confidence that that our relationship remains ironclad, consecrated by the service and sacrifice of Americans and Filipinos who fought side by side.

Our shared history is enduring and deeply personal. Our relationship has withstood the tests of history and flourishes today. And every day our relationship is further strengthened by our unbreakable alliance, robust economic partnership, and deep people-to-people ties.

So on behalf of the United States, it is my great honor to be here at this closing of a painful chapter in our history. The Bells’ return reflects the strong bonds and mutual respect between our two nations and our peoples. It demonstrates our determination to honor the past and the sacrifices made together by Filipinos and Americans. And it heralds our bright future as friends, partners, and allies.

The Bells of Balangiga are now home, in the Philippines, where they belong.

Secretary Lorenzana, please take them to the people of Balangiga and to the Church of San Lorenzo [de Martir]. May they ring in peace and bear testament to the ties and values which bind our two great nations for generations to come.

Thank you very much. Salamat po.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Relevant Text: "At this point, allow me to take a step back in time, in 1901. In 1901, there was known as Balangiga, and that is Eastern Samar. It was the time for Philippine-American War. A combined group of Filipino villagers and guerrillas, in an effort to defend Samar Island from the alien invaders, attacked and overwhelmed a US – a United States infantry garrison. Forty-eight American officers and men were slain in the attack. On the Filipino side, the casualty count was twenty-eight killed and twenty-two wounded."

"In retaliation, US gunboats and patrols were sent to Balangiga, Samar with the order to “…make a desert of Balangiga” and to reduce Samar Island into an island of “howling wilderness,” where every male citizen from the age of ten and above, and capable of bearing arms, would be put to death. The Church bells of Balangiga were seized by the Americans as spoils of war."

"Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process. Krag against bolo – krag was the standard rifle issued to the American troops. And that is how the historians describe.[Nauna ka, pababa mo. Hindi, baba mo, tumataas ’yan.] [laughter] Mahirap talag kung director ka, ikaw pa ang speech. [laughter] Many historians describe – [sige] the Philippine-American war. That is why I say today; give us back those Balangiga bells. [applause] They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. [applause] They are part of our national heritage. [applause] Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit ’yun sa amin."

Page Updated: 10/12/20

U.S. Copyright Status: This text = Property of Audio = Public domain.
































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