Now You Know: THE SAN PEDRO BELL OF BAUANG, LA UNION: RETURNED AFTER 115 YEARS

Did you know, dearest Senior Citizens, that there was another Philippine church bell taken by the Americans during the Philippine-American War1 in 1901?

Yes, there was! It is called the San Pedro Bell, taken from Saints Peter and Paul Church in Bauang2, La Union3, one of the oldest Catholic churches in the Philippines.

Sounds like Balangiga4, right? Well, not exactly. Let Tita S tell you about it because you might want to visit it this year and appreciate it more.

The San Pedro bell is the church bell5 that was originally presented to Friar Mariano Garcia on behalf of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in 1883 by Governor Mariano Balancio, and Hilario Calica.

san pedro bell-CBCPNewsSource: CBCP News

Named after one of the patron saints of Bauang, Saint Peter (“San Pedro” in Tagalog), the bell is made of copper, gold, and silver, and weighs 883 pounds.

sanpedrobell-newsinfo.inquirer.netThe San Pedro Bell of Bauang, La Union, Philippines – Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net

It remained in the church belfry until 1901 when it was removed by US forces stationed in the Philippines.

The circumstances surrounding the removal of the bell and its journey to the USA remain lost in history.

However, US Military Academy (USMA) Chief of Staff Colonel Wayne A. Green recalled that the San Pedro bell was almost destroyed at the outbreak of the Philippine-American War1 in 1899, when bells were being melted down and made into guns. The Americans claimed that the advance of American forces in La Union3 “saved” the bell. Thus, the bell remained intact and the Americans brought it to the USA as a war souvenir.

General Thomas Barry, a West Point graduate from Class 1877, was one of the American Army officers who served in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War1. In 1915, he became the USMA’s 21st Superintendent, and during his time there, he presented the bell to the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, where it remained for the next century.

“But after its arrival in West Point, the San Pedro bell remained in the belfry of the Most Trinity Chapel for years, unhung, unrung, sitting in silence. It was discovered in 1959, during the chapel expansion, and for several years, it rested outside the chapel, proudly sitting in a place of honor ….”

In 2015, Former United States Navy officers Dennis Wright and Dan McKinnon were part of a group of American Veterans who re-discovered the bell in West Point. These American ex-servicemen, along with Dr. Rolando Borrinaga of the Philippines’ National Commission for Culture and the Arts, “campaigned to have the bells repatriated”.

Subsequent research identified that the bell belonged to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Bauang2, La Union3. The American veteran group then worked with Fr. Ronald R. O. Chan (the parish priest of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Bauang2, in La Union3) and Mayor P. de Guzman III to formally request that the bell be returned to its home church.

Filipino cadet Don Stanley Dalisay of Tigloy, Batangas, an economics and operations research junior, helped to establish the bell’s history by taking pictures and sending them to two University of Santo Tomas (UST) professors who were enlisted in 2015 to research the subject.

Obviously, no one in West Point knew about the bell’s history until USMA’s Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr. received a letter on November 10, 2015 from Fr. Ronald Chan.

Based on the UST Professors’ research, the letter basically requested the USMA to return the bell. After verifying that the markings on the bell matched the descriptions provided by Fr. Chan, the superintendent responded two months later: “While we have been honored to guard and display this bell for the past several decades, we would be glad to return the bell to its rightful home.” He added that this was being done as a gesture of goodwill and in recognition of American’s enduring friendship with the Philippines.

Special recognition and thanks were extended to the following: Lieutenant General Casten, Jr., Captain Dennis L. Wright (USN, Retired), Rear Admiral Daniel W. McKinnon, Jr. (SC, USN, Retired) and Captain John P. Gilmer (USMA ’74), and Ambassador Raul R. C. Rabe.

Appropriate arrangements were eventually made for the bell’s transfer, culminating in a valediction ceremony that was held at the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Chapel on April 29, 2016. Around a hundred members of the Filipino-American community, Philippine Embassy officials, diplomats and scholars, and US Military Academy (USMA) cadets, staff, officers and guests, gathered for the send-off.

USMA Chief of Staff Colonel Wayne A. Green remarked that sending the San Pedro bell home was “the right and honorable thing to do.” He added: “And so we are here today, in the spirit of friendship and cooperation with our friends from the Philippines, to say farewell to the San Pedro bell, which has been part of the West Point community for many years, and return it to its rightful place.”

Consul General (Ret.) Sonny Busa, who represented the Filipino American community, the US-Philippine Society, and the West Point Society of the Philippines, at the hand-over, pointed out that “the bell would have seen many momentous historical events in the history of America: two World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The bell has seen thousands of America’s finest young men and women pass by. It has rung for their weddings. It has tolled for their funerals. It has rung for their homecomings. It has tolled for their departures.”

A choral rendition of Bayan Ko (“My Country”), led by a dozen members of the Washington, DC based-Philippine American Foundation for Charities (PAFC), followed Busa’s remarks, and the Filipino cadets and several guests joined in the singing.

After the mass, the chaplain rang the bell, while others gathered around the bell, and took turns to ring it too. The bell was then unbolted from its base, carted off by a half dozen professional movers, loaded on to a flat bed truck, and taken to a warehouse where it was crated for shipping.

After a few days, the San Pedro bell was airlifted to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, then finally transferred to its original home – the Church of Saints Peter and Paul – where a big celebration was set on May 23, 2016, according to the Wikipedia page “Bauang”.6

San_Pedro_bell-common.wikimedia.orgSource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:San_Pedro_bell.jpg

The return of the San Pedro bell revived the interest for the return of the three Balangiga bells7 to the Eastern Samar8 town of Balangiga4. The latter event happened after two years. See a related post: THE BALANGIGA BELLS–A TIMELY HOMECOMING AFTER 117 YEARS!

Most of the information was obtained from www.globalnation.inquirer.net.

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The following terms are defined for the benefit of interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, or those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:

1The Philippine-American War was an armed conflict between the First Philippine Republic9 (FPR) and the US. It lasted from February 4, 1899 to July 2, 1902. Filipino nationalists viewed the conflict as a continuation of the struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution10, while the US government regarded it as an insurrection. The conflict arose when the FPR objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris11 under which the US took possession of the Philippines from Spain, ending the short Spanish-American War (April 21, 1898 – August 13, 1898). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Philippine-American War”.12

2Bauang is a first class municipality13 in the province14 of La Union3, in the Ilocos Region (Region 1)15, in the island of Luzon16, in the Philippines, according to Wikipedia page “Bauang”.6

3La Union is a province14 in the Philippines located in the Ilocos Region (Region 1)15, in the island of Luzon16, in the Philippines. Its capital is the city of San Fernando, which also serves as the regional center of the whole Ilocos Region. This province is bordered by Ilocos Sur to the north, Benguet to the east, Pangasinan to the south, and to the west by the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “La Union”.17

4Balangiga is a fourth class municipality13 in the southern coast of the island of Samar facing Leyte Gulf, in the province14 of Eastern Samar8, in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII)18, in the Philippines. It sits at the mouth of the Balangiga River. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Balangiga”.19

5A church bell, in the Christian tradition, is a bell rung in a church for a variety of reasons and can be heard outside the building. Examples are: to call worshippers to the church for a communal service, to announce the time of daily prayer, to signify special occasions like wedding or funeral service, and some believe to drive out demons. This cup-shaped metal resonator, hung within a steeple or bell tower of a church or religious building, has a pivoted clapper hanging inside which strikes the sides when the bell is swung. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Church bell”.20

6“Bauang,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bauang.

7The Balangiga bells are three church bells5 taken by the United States Army from the Church of San Lorenzo de Martir, the town church of Balangiga4, diocese of Borongan21, province14 of Eastern Samar8, in the Philippines, as war trophies22 after reprisals following the Balangiga massacre in 1901 during the Philippine-American War1. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Balangiga bells”.23

8Eastern Samar is a province14 in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII)18, in the Philippines, which occupies the eastern portion of the island of Samar, according to the Wikipedia page “Eastern Samar”.24

9The First Philippine Republic, or Malolos Republic, was a nascent revolutionary government in the Philippines, formally established with the proclamation of the Malolos Constitution on January 21, 1899, in the city of Malolos, province of Bulacan. It ended during the capture of President Emilio Aguinaldo by the American forces on March 23, 1901, in Palanan, Isabela. The information was obtained from theWikipedia page “First Philippine Republic”.25

10The Philippine Revolution was a revolution that began in August 23, 1896 when the Spanish authorities discovered the Katipunan, an anti-colonial secret organization, and ended on August 13, 1898, after Emilio Aguinaldo issued the Philippine Declaration of Independence on June 12. This information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Philippine Revolution”.26

11The Treaty of Paris was an agreement, signed on December 10, 1898, that involved Spain relinquishing nearly all the remaining Spanish Empire, especially Cuba, and ceding Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the US, thus ending the Spanish-American War27. It came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the documents of ratification were exchanged. The cessation of the Philippines involved a payment of US$20 million from the US to Spain. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Treaty of Paris (1898)”.28

12“Philippine-American War,” accessed November 2, 2018,

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine-American_War.

13A municipality is a small, single urban administrative division, or local government unit (LGU)29, in the Philippines which has corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by law. It is a unit under a province14, subdivided into barangays30, a town, and is locally called “bayan”. In the Philippines, a municipality is headed by a mayor, a vice mayor and members of the Sangguniang Bayan (legislative branch). It can enact local policies and laws, enforce them, and govern its jurisdictions. It can enter into contracts and other transactions through its elected and appointed officials, and can tax as well. It enforces all local and national laws. There are almost 1,500 municipalities in the Philippines. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Municipalities of the Philippines”.31

14A province is the primary administrative and political division in the Philippines. It is the second-level administrative sub-division of a region32. There are 81 provinces (called “lalawigan”) in the Philippines; see a related post: Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT ARE PROVINCES IN THE PHILIPPINES?. Each province is governed by an elected legislature called the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and by an elected governor. The information was  obtained from the Wikipedia page “Province”.33 

15The Ilocos Region (Region 1) is a Philippine region located in the island group of Luzon16, with San Fernando (La Union) as its regional center. It has 5 local government units (LGUs)29: Dagupan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union3 and Pangasinan. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Ilocos Region”.34

16Luzon is one (of the 3) major geographical divisions of the Philippines. It is the largest (ranked 15th largest in the world), most populated island as well as the economical and political center of the country. It is composed of 8 regions32: Bicol, Cagayan Valley, CALABARZON, Central Luzon, Cordillera, Ilocos15, MIMAROPA and the National Capital Region. The 2 other geographical divisions of the Philippines are Visayas35 and Mindanao36. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Luzon”.37

17“La Union,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Union.

18Region VIII, called the Eastern Visayas Region, is a Philippine region32 located in the island group of Visayas35, with Tacloban as its regional center. It lies on the east central section of the Philippines and faces the Philippine Sea to the east. It has 8 local government units (LGUs)29: Biliran, Eastern Samar8, Leyte, Northern Samar, Ormoc, Samar, Southern Leyte and Tacloban. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Eastern Visayas”.38

19“Balangiga,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balangiga.

20“Church bell,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_bell.

21Borongan is a component city39 and the capital of the province of Eastern Samar, in the Eastern Visayas Region18, Philippines. It was founded on September 8, 1619 and became a city on June 21, 2007, according to the Wikipedia page “Borongan”.40

22A war trophy is an object or souvenir taken from a battlefield after a victory, and displayed as a cultural object, and becomes the property of the state to which the soldiers responsible for the capture belonged. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “War trophy”.41

23“Balangiga bells,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balangiga_bells.

24“Eastern Samar,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Samar.

25“First Philippine Republic,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Philippine_Republic.

26“Philippine Revolution,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Philippine_Revolution.

27“Spanish-American War,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_American_War.

28“Treaty of Paris,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of-Paris.

29A local government unit (LGU) in the Philippines is divided into 3 levels: provinces14 and independent cities42, component cities39 and municipalities13; and, barangays30.

30A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, headed by a barangay captain, aided by a Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council). It is the native Filipino term for a district or village. It was formerly called a barrio. In a metropolitan area, a barangay is an inner city neighborhood, a suburb, or a suburban neighborhood. The word barangay originated from the term “balangay”, a kind of boat used by a group of Austronesian people who migrated to the Philippines. A number of barangays grouped together is called a district. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Barangay”.43

31“Municipalities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_The_Philippines.

32A region is the first-order administrative division in the Philippines. There are 18 regions in the Philippines, based on geographical, cultural and ethnological characteristics. See a related post: Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT ARE THE REGIONS OF THE PHILIPPINES? NOTE: It is further subdivided in provinces14, composed of cities and municipalities13 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays30, formerly called barrios. The information is obtained from the Wikipedia page “Regions of the Philippines”.44

33“Province,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Province.

34“Ilocos Region,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilocos_Region.

35Visayas is one (of the 3) major geographical divisions of the Philippines. It covers 3 administrative regions: Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas18 and Western Visayas. It consists of 6 major islands (Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Panay and Samar), mostly surrounded by the Visayan Sea, and is composed of 16 provinces. The 2 other geographical divisions of the Philippines are Luzon16 and Mindanao36. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Visayas”.45

36Mindanao is one (of the 3) major geographical divisions of the Philippines. It is the second largest island of the country and covers 6 administrative regions: CARAGA Region, Davao Region, Northern Mindanao, SOCCSKSARGEN, Zamboanga Peninsula, and ARMM. It is composed of 22 provinces14 and 33 cities47. The 2 other geographical divisions of the Philippines are Luzon16 and Visayas35. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Mindanao”.46

37“Luzon,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luzon.

38“Eastern Visayas,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Visayas.

39A component city is a type of city47 in the Philippines which does not meet the requirements of a highly urbanized city48. It is under the jurisdiction of a province14. If such a city is located along the boundaries of 2 or more provinces, it shall be considered part of the province of which it used to be a municipality13. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”.49

40“Borongan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borongan.

41“War trophy,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_trophy

42An independent city is a type of city47 in the Philippines which is administratively and legally not subject to a province14so it does not share its tax revenues with any province14. The national government and its agencies serve such a city through sub-offices of the region32 it belongs to. It is subdivided into 2: highly urbanized city48 orindependent component city50. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”.49

 43“Barangay,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay.

 44“Regions of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regions_of_the_Philippines.

45“Visayas,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visayas.

46“Mindanao,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindanao.

47A city is the local government unit (LGU)29 in the Philippines headed by a mayor elected by popular vote. A vice mayor serves as the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (city council), which acts as the city’s legislative body.

48A highly urbanized city (HUC) is a type of city47 in the Philippines with a minimum population of 200,000 as certified by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), and with the latest annual income of at least 50 million pesos. There are currently 33 such cities in the Philippines; see a related post: Foreign Seniors Ask: HOW MANY CITIES ARE THERE IN THE PHILIPPINES?. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”.49

49“Cities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_of_the_Philipippines.

50An independent component city (ICC) is a city47 in the Philippines which is independent from the province14 in which it is geographically located. It has a charter that explicitly prohibits its residents to vote for provincial officials. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”.49