Group vows to recover Bells of Balangiga with help from Hollywood celebrities, Manny Pacquiao

Logan Clarke meets with supporters on the proposed documentary.  Photo by Dante Ochoa

Logan Clarke meets with supporters on the proposed documentary. Photo by Dante Ochoa

By Dante D. Ochoa

Undeterred by previous unsuccessful efforts to recover the Bells of Balangiga, the famed war booty from the Philippine-American war, a group of Southern Californians, meeting in Huntington Beach, California resolved to succeed where others have failed.

A formal launch of the committee in a Beverly Hills venue is scheduled in the coming week as well as an Indiegogo crowdfunding to support the campaign called “Bring the Bells Back.”

The church bells of the town of Balangiga, Samar were seized by the 9th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. expeditionary army in the aftermath of the Sept. 28, 1901 early morning attack by mostly Balangiga townsfolk led by their police chief. About 48 U.S. soldiers were killed and scores wounded in that encounter.

The Balangiga men were well-coordinated, some carefully disguised as women who got past inspection posts early morning by pretending they were on their way to church carrying small coffins for children supposedly cholera victims, in fact secretly filled with knives and bolos. They struck at a prearranged signal including the pealing of the church bells. At the time, soldiers of Company C, 9th Infantry Regiment were having breakfast, away from their Krag rifles. Still the Filipino attackers suffered 28 men dead.

This military setback has been compared to the defeat of General Armstrong Custer, U.S. Cavalry at Little BigHorn during the Indian wars.

The ensuing reprisals launched by a vengeful military commander General Jacob Smith left thousands of Filipinos in Samar island dead from indiscriminate violence perpetrated by U.S. soldiers acting on orders from superiors to “turn Samar into a howling wilderness” and “to kill all males capable of bearing arms” as young as 10 years of age.

The American commanding general and other subordinates responsible for the atrocities were held accountable by U.S. army courts-martial but the belfry bells remain as war booty for the last 115 years in U.S. military installations in South Korea and Wyoming despite efforts by the Philippine government and sympathetic U.S. legislators to get them back.

Logan Clarke, president of the Committee to Return the Bells, which he organized to spearhead a mainly American campaign, is confident he will be able to bring the historic bells back to the Filipino people.

Clarke was an American expatriate in the Philippines during the seventies and worked in the Philippine movie industry, notably on the film “Sunugin ang Samar!” He said when he learned from a film director-friend that the bells of Balangiga are still in the hands of the U.S., he felt compelled to act and work for their return.

“The bells are not something you can keep as a war trophy. They are a symbol of freedom and faith of the Filipino people and it is a disgrace that we have kept them for over a century. The time has come to return the bells,” said Clarke.

The three bells: ‘They are a symbol of freedom, not war trophies’

The three bells: ‘They are a symbol of freedom, not war trophies’

Clarke, who claims world-renown as an international private investigator better known as “The Retriever” takes pride in his many professional achievements, the latest of which was solving the mystery disappearance last year of the late Casey Kassem, the U.S. radio celebrity disc jockey.

One can’t help but have a glimpse of Clarke combining lessons of history with the glamour of the world of entertainment to achieve the committee’s goal. He has lined up actors Danny Glover, Rosario Dawson, John Savage, Natassha Kinski, Jack Silberman and many others to support the campaign

“And I know what to do,” he told TheFilAmLosAngeles.com. “I can bring the bells back. All we have to work on is for the U.S. Congress to pass a resolution to give back the bells because the bells are a religious artifact which cannot be seized as war booty.”

“The main reason why the earlier efforts failed is because of a lack of public awareness and that is one of the major focus of the campaign,” he added.

It is not any surprise that Clarke asked Manny Pacquiao to be the honorary chairman of the committee to drum up the much-needed public awareness.

Ferdinand Galang, son of Philippine actor Fred Galang, narrated the trailer for ‘Return the Bells’ campaign presented to supporters

Ferdinand Galang, son of Philippine actor Fred Galang, narrated the trailer for ‘Return the Bells’ campaign presented to supporters

Or it may be the American audience that Clarke has in mind to target since the support of the American public would be pivotal in convincing the U.S. legislators to pass a congressional resolution calling for the return of the bells. The campaign just might end up as a battle for the hearts and minds of the American people which Filipinos could win.

As Max Ricketts, a leading committee member and a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, who lived for 10 years in the Philippines with his Filipina wife Edith, wrote in his Balangiga primer:

“(The Bells of Balangiga) are now silent symbols of a sad and nearly forgotten chapter in otherwise harmonious U.S.-Filipino relations — relations secured by common bonds of aspiration for individual liberty and freedom as well as blood commingled on the battlefields of World War II. The Bells harken to a time, for better or worse, when a Progressive America was expanding its global influence and Filipinos were crying for emancipation from foreign rule.”

Supporters of the committee also includes U. S. congressman Dana Rohrabacher who, in 2006, sponsored a H.R. resolution to return the war relic but was unsuccessful.

Carlos Zialcita, founder of Filipino American Jazz Festival in San Francisco; Ferdinand Galang, a Filipino-American film director, son of the late Philippine actor-Pastor Fred Galang; Oscar Peñaranda, a Filipino writer-educator-activist and The Filipino American Press Club of Los Angeles (Est.1978) are also members of the committee.

This new effort just might be the necessary catalyst towards the resolution of this 115-year saga of the Bells of Balangiga.

It then might not be far-fetched a scenario proposed by Clarke that at the Pacquiao-Mayweather meeting on May 2, Manny will tell the many millions around the world that the time for the Bells of Balangiga to return home has come.

That will be a knockout.

Manny Pacquiao hosted  Clarke (to his right) at his Forbes Park home in October 2014. Clarke had several meetings with the boxing champ to finalize his involvement in the campaign. According to Clarke, Manny was ‘very interested and eager to join.’

Manny Pacquiao hosted Clarke (to his right) at his Forbes Park home in October 2014. Clarke had several meetings with the boxing champ to finalize his involvement in the campaign. According to Clarke, Manny was ‘very interested and eager to join.’

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