Balangiga Massacre: A Howling Wilderness

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One of the more contentious issues that left a bitter episode in the Philippine-American relation has been the Balangiga Massacre. On the morning of September 28, 1901, Valeriano Abenador and Eugenio Daza led the attack against the Company C of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment.

Balangiga Massacre Monument in Balangiga, Eastern SamarOn August 11, 1901, Company C arrived in Balangiga, a town on the south side of Samar Island. For the first several weeks, the relationship between the American soldiers and the townsfolk of Balangiga was cordial. But a series of events occurred leading to the armed uprising spearheaded by Abenador and Daza. When the smoke was cleared, 36 killed, 22 wounded, four missing in action and eight died later of wounds among the Americans. For their part, the locals had 28 casualties and 22 wounded in action.

Balangiga Massacre Memorial in Balangiga, Eastern SamarAccording to historians, the real massacre happened during the retaliatory campaign launched by Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith and Major Littleton Waller. US President Theodore Roosevelt issued orders to Major General Adna R. Chaffee, military governor of the Philippines, to pacify Samar Island. The brunt of work fell to General Smith and Major Waller. A six-month brutal campaign turned Balangiga and Samar into a howling wilderness. It was said that only the good sense of some soldiers prevented the complete reign of terror in the island.

Balangiga Church in Balangiga, Eastern SamarIn the aftermath of the campaign, the bells of the Church of Saint Lawrence the Martyr were taken as war booty. One of the bells is said to be at the base of the 9th Infantry Regiment in Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu, South Korea. The two other bells are on display near the flagpole of the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. A Queen Mary Tudor cannon forged in 1557 was also looted. There were concerted efforts seeking the return of the Balangiga bells but none have been successful. The Balangiga bells have been a source of enmity since.

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