San Pedro bell returns after 115 yrs

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BAUANG, La Union: The 400-year old San Pedro bell was installed and returned in its original home at Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church on Monday, after it was taken by American soldiers in 1901 from the Roman Catholic church here.

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“After more than a century, we are so glad that we now have the opportunity to once again hear the call of San Pedro (St. Peter) to our church services,” said Father Ronald Chan, parish priest, in his remarks during the unveiling and ceremonial rites.

The bell was installed at left side of the church’s main door.

Most Reverend Rodolfo Beltran, Bishop of the Diocese of San Fernando, La Union, officiated the Mass during the ceremonial rites attended by representatives from the United States (US) Embassy in Manila, US war veterans, the West Point Association of the Philippines, parishioners, local officials and residents.

“I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the US military for the return of the bell, the voice of God,” Beltran said, who led the ceremonial ringing of the bell following its unveiling.

Mayor Martin de Guzman also thanked all who facilitated the return of the bell, especially retired US Navy Captain Dennis Wright, who discovered the existence of the bell through research work.

“This bell is very important to us. It is our long lost treasure. The return of the bell would strengthen our faith and further unite us,” De Guzman said.

The bell was transported from the West Point Community in New York, USA on April 30 and arrived in the Philippines, through the Clark Airport in Pampanga, on May 17.

Before the bell’s shipment, a ceremony and Mass were held at West Point’s Most Holy Trinity Catholic Chapel attended by Philippine consulate officials and representatives of the US government.

Wright said he first learned of the bell’s existence three years ago through research work to effect the return of the Ballangiga bells.

“It was through this research that we learned of another bell (San Pedro) from the Philippines that was located at the US Military Academy in West Point New York. We learned that it was taken in 1901. However, the circumstances surrounding the removal of the bell and its journey to the U.S. remain lost in history,” Wright said.

Wright said that he, along with a group of American veterans, rediscovered the bell and found out that it belonged to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul here. The veterans then worked with Fr. Chan and Mayor De Guzman to formally request the return of the bell.

On January 26, 2016, Lt. General Robert Caslen Jr., 59th Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, agreed to return the bell as a gesture of goodwill and in recognition of America’s enduring friendship with the Philippines.

The bell was taken by American soldier Gen. Thomas Barry, during the Philippine-American war and gave it to the US Military Academy at West Point where it was hung outside the academy’s chapel.

Historical records show that in 1883, Gobernadorcillo Mariano Balancio, who became a Mayor of Bauang and Lt. DD. Hilario Calica gave the bell to Father Mariano Garcia, who was then Parish Priest of San Pedro from November 1872 to July 25, 1876.

The bell was almost destroyed during the Philippine revolution but the advancement of American forces prevented it and other bells in the Philippines from being melted down and made into guns and other war ammunitions.

The bell is made from alloy of gold silver and copper.

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