After 115-year US stay, ‘bell of peace’ back home

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Locals from the municipality of Bauang, province of La Union, welcome the historic “bell of peace” on May 23 after a 115-year stay in the U.S. (Photo: Leo Lazo)

BAUANG, May 23, 2016 – After being kept for 115 years on American soil, the historic San Pedro bell was welcomed back home with nothing short of a fiesta-like celebration in the municipality of Bauang, province of La Union, earlier today.

Dubbed the “Symbol of peace”, the bell hung outside New York’s West Point’s Most Holy Trinity Catholic Chapel since 1937 before its return to the Philippines.

After a farewell ceremony last April 29 in West Point where it was rung for one last time, Bauang resident welcomed the bell’s return with festivities complete with colorful banderitas and musical and cultural performances.

Bishop Rodolfo F. Beltran, Bishop of San Fernando La Union, commenced the unveiling ceremony by celebrating Holy Mass, which was attended by representatives from the West Point community, U.S. veterans, local officials, church leaders, and parishioners.

In an interview, UP Professor Rolando O. Borrinaga shared his sentiments about the bell’s return, “I am very happy about this development.” Borrinaga, who is a historian from Eastern Visayas, did the transcription and translation of the inscriptions on the bell, then traced its origin to Bauang using the book “Curas de Almas” as key reference. The book’s author Prof. Regalado Trota Jose, an archivist of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, corroborated Borrinaga’s findings.

When asked how non-residents of Bauang can grasp the bell’s relevance, Borrinaga, who is an expert of the historic Bells of Balangiga, said, “A church bell reminds Filipinos of their faith and religiosity. The ringing of a bell, whether a church bell or a school bell, is always interpreted as a warning or a call to do something dutifully.”

The bell was removed from the 16th-century old church of Saints Peter and Paul Church in 1901 during the Philippine-American War that lasted from 1899 to 1902. U.S. soldiers routinely took bells home as souvenirs, but at times they were removed for a military purpose – to prevent them from being melted to make weapons.

The bell fell into the hands of Lt. Col. Thomas Barry, who had been deployed to the Philippines in 1900-01. An 1877 West Point graduate, who eventually became its 27th superintendent, gave the bell to his alma mater in 1915. It was brought to the Catholic Church at West Point for storage in 1937. (Carl Jamie Simple S. Bordeos / CBCP News)

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