WEST POINT, N.Y. — The San Pedro Bell rung loudly one last time on Friday — signaling its much awaited journey home to the Philippines.
Filipino officials, community leaders, military cadets and officers gathered at the Most Holy Trinity Chapel inside the West Point Military Academy for a final blessing as they bid their goodbyes to the historic bell.
“It’s the church bells that usually wake us up right in almost every town,” Philippine Consul General Mario De Leon said, “So this is the 70th Anniversary of US-Philippine diplomatic relations, so the return of the San Pedro Bell is coming at really very auspicious time.”
In 1901, the 834-pound bell was taken down from the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Bauang, La Union in the Philippines.
US Army’s Lt. Col. Thomas Barry, who was chasing Emilio Aguinaldo during the Philippine-American war, took the bell as a “token souvenir.”
Fil-Am Sonny Busa, a Former Diplomat of U.S. Department of State, said, “He took it because it was feared at that time that the bell would be melted down into munitions to fight against the Americans.”
Barry then gave the bell to his alma mater – the West Point Military Academy in 1915 and it stayed there until today.
“It has tolled for their funeral, it has rung for their homecomings, it has tolled for their departures, it rang for my wedding here 39 years ago at his very spot,” Busa said.
The bell’s whereabouts would have remained unknown from its rightful owners – the people of Bauang, if not for a discovery made by US Navy Veterans Dan McKinnon and Dennis Wright.
Wright and McKinnon were on a mission to bring a different set of historic bells — the Bells of Balangiga — home to the Philippines.
The U.S. Army took 3 bells from a church in Balangiga in Eastern Samar – where more than 40 American soldiers died during a surprise attack in 1901.
Today, two of the Balangiga Bells are now at an Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and the third is in South Korea.
During the course of their quest to return the Bells of Balangiga, the Navy Vets stumbled upon Filipino West Point cadet Don Stanley Dalisay a year ago.
“The group was actually trying to get the Balangiga Bells back,” Cadet Dalisay said, “We’ve been communicating and then Admiral McKinnon told me, you know what Don there’s another bell, I heard there’s another bell at West Point why not take a look at it, do some research.”
So he did.
Later on, a photo confirmed the San Pedro Bell’s Authenticity.
A year later, a West Point Superintendent approved the request to return the San Pedro Bell home to the Philippines.
Kababayan’s here are hoping – the Bells of Balangiga will be the next to take its journey home.
You may contact Don Tagala at [email protected] for more information.