there is a general sadness to this space, so historically vibrant, and such a measure of how we do not care about this history. the bells are missing from the church’s bell tower, and the church itself is closed and under renovation. in May its doors were open, masses were being celebrated, a choir practiced in between. in the plaza in front of the Church there is a monument by Napoleon Abueva showing how 500 Filipino revolutionaries launched a surprise ambush on Company C of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment on September 28 1901.
to avenge the death of his soldiers, General Jacob H. Smith ordered that Samar be turned into a howling wilderness. they looted the Balangiga Church of its three bells. two are on exhibit in Wyoming’s F. E. Warren Air Force Base, and one in Camp Red Cloud in Korea.
in Balangiga itself the absence of these bells, the lack of real concrete plans to fight for their return is a cloud that haunts the town. they know of their courage and their bravery, and certainly there is pride in what their men have proven in history. but also there is exhaustion, both borne of this continued struggle for those bells but also in the past year of having struggled to recover from Haiyan. the structures are up, but the poverty is difficult to ignore, the need and hunger palpable.