By Marie Tonette Grace Marticio
BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar – After over a century of longing for the revered Balangiga bells, Balangigan-ons expressed happiness that they will hear the bells peal in San Lorenzo de Martir Church again, and bring back the memories brought growing up with the bells.
Fe Campanero, the descendant of Casiana Nacionales who was also known as Duday Sana recalls her childhood memories of the Balangiga massacre as her favorite bedtime stories.
“We grew up hearing stories by my father about the Balangiga encounter before we sleep because we didn’t have electricity then. After dinner, all of us would gather to hear their stories as a form of bonding,” she said.
Duday Sana was the only woman who helped in plotting the attack against the US troops on September 28, 1901.
“The natives and the US soldiers had a good relationship at first, but later there were abuses since they were having a hard time communicating with the natives. Only few of them knew how to speak English,” Campanero recalled.
She added that only over a month since the Americans occupied Balangiga on August 11, 1901, the disgruntled people from then Giporlos, Quinapondan and Balangiga villages started to organize themselves because they could not air out their frustrations against the American soldiers who were armed with guns.
Then one of Casiana Nacionales’ brothers was incarcerated, which triggered her to join the revolt. She was able to penetrate the Americans’ camps because she was friendly and could speak a bit of English. She gathered information that led to the guerillas’ planning of the attack.
Campanero believes that the return of the bells will strengthen the Philippines’ relationship with the US because they symbolize the continuous fight against all forms of poverty, and strengthen faith and friendship between the two allies.
“We have prepared as much as we can based on our available resources. This is the best way that we know to show our immense happiness for their return and also to welcome everyone who will be celebrating with us because this is a once in a lifetime experience,” she added.
Blas Albetria, 80, also shared how Carlos Badilla, his grandfather who was a church helper then was filled with terror when he was asked to leave the village because of the native’s planned attack against the invaders.
“My grandfather said the Americans were abusing the people especially the girls and women. Each of them had at least two natives as slaves,” he said.
Sergio Abejero, 83, whose six ancestors were killed and injured during the Balangiga encounter, expressed pride that his relatives in Wyoming formed a group to call for the return of the bells.
“Finally, we can say that we are happy because they are already here. My ancestors and relatives sacrificed a lot so that we can witness a day like this,” he said, referring to the Balangiga bells’ return to San Lorenzo de Martir Church.
Cyril Lukban, a 4th generation descendant of General Vicente Lukban, said that the bells are back to unite the people in Balangiga. Although General Lukban did not directly participate in the Balangiga encounter, he was the mastermind of the attack through Capt. Valeriano Abanador whose monument stands beside the Balangiga marker in their town plaza.