• Softbells, Samar bells, Kitty G and Sal P

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    RENE SAGUISAG

    CHEERS! Our softbelles just won a world championship in Hemet, California. Another first, we are told. I dunno where the dickens Hemet in California is. I am more familiar with San Francisco; there, a two-acre downtown park was named after our Victoria Manalo-Draves (late) who won two diving golds in the 1948 London Olympics and acclaimed here when she made sentimental journeys home. Orani, Bataan, was where her musikero father hailed from. How can you beat one named Victoria (!) na Manalo pa (!!).

    California, Pinoys often go to. Wyoming is out of the way. But, I have gone to Cheyenne because of the Bells of Balangiga,

    On September 12, 1994, I wrote here, thusly: “Last Wednesday I heard from Prof. Rolando O. Borrinaga, of UP, Palo, Leyte, who wrote. `My reference elsewhere to the Balangiga bells was largely intended to remind our people about a more vicious but forgotten war that cost the lives of more Leyteños and Samareños than any other conflict in our local history. . . ‘.”

    He and I have shared for decades a concern about the bells and the cannon now sitting in Fort Warren, just out of Cheyenne. Go there, traveler, look at the bells, the cannon, and the inscription, and see if you can be so insensitive as not to feel something surging within you. It is time some focus was applied to the enterprise, which Prez Digong has splendidly provided. Remembrance of things past enables us to have a sense of where we are, and should go. The bells can remind us that there were proud moments in our past, when our people, united, fought for honor, and did not behave like a circular firing squad.

    There may not be too many such moments but such a one was one downt morning in September 1901. From time to time, enough Filipinos agree on what truly matters; we have our Balangigas, Bataans and Edsas, when we hear the footsteps of history. Let freedom ring once more from those bells, back in Balangiga, where they belong, to punctuate America’s generosity of spirit, Digong’s resolution, and the courage of our forebears—to help in the healing.

    On September 28, 2001, I wrote here: “A hundred years ago to the day, the bells of Balangiga tolled [and today]sit in silence in Wyoming.”

    In 1992, Fil-Am lawyer Chuck Medel and I landed on Denver’s Stapleton Airport. We motored from there to Cheyenne, along a scenic range where the deer and the antelope play. In Cheyenne, we stayed in an inn where a family of UP alums—whose patriarch jocosely and gamely said UP stood for Useless People—worked, and had adjusted nicely. There we saw the two bells (dated 1883 and 1889, respectively) and the British-made Falcon cannon (circa 16th century). Mine eyes have seen the glory of those Bells.

    As a student of the subject, the earliest recorded effort I saw to get them back was in 1957. My fellow Maubanin, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, S.J., wrote twice to Mr. Chip Wards, command historian of the 13th Air Force in San Francisco. After the year turned, the Franciscan Fathers in Guinhulngan, Negros Oriental, also wrote to Mr. Ward, pressing the point that one of the bells was of Franciscan origin.

    In 1911, there was a view in the US War Department that “it may be appropriate to question the propriety of taking (even as a souvenir) a bell belonging to the Catholic Church simply because a recreant native priest either used it or permitted it to be used to sound a signal of attack on American soldiers. The bell belonged to the church and not to the priest. It was not the fault of the church but that of the priest that it was misused.” Echoed by Cheyenne Bishop Joseph Hart.

    FVR, et al. have worked on it for some years now, off and on. GMA joined the effort. There remains formidable resistance, supposedly, from some Wyoming officials and residents. The resistance should yield to time, patience and effort; and the time has come for White Knight Digong.

    The sprawling installation is named after Wyoming Senator and Governor Francis Warren. The bells, more than three feet high and very heavy, along with the old cannon, are in the middle of the camp. The literature on same makes gripping reading even today, in that someday somehow, the bells will come home where they belong. In Balangiga. May they ring in freedom there. As the song goes, a rose must remain, with the sun and the rain, or its lovely promise won’t come true. To each his own and those bells, with a promise all their own, are ours.
    Which reminds me, see you in Celeste’s show tomorrow evening at Solaire.

    Meantime, reading last Sunday’s Inquirer, I saw the following: “Noynoy, a year after: Q: `What are you hearing from your `bosses’ right now?’ A: `It is kind of mixed: I learned about (this) in psychology class (in college). There was a tenement building that had a lot of residents and in its courtyard there was somebody being raped. She was screaming, asking for help, which brought out the residents of that whole tenement complex. All of them saw the rape, according to our psychology professor, but nobody helped. And we were all wondering, why didn’t anybody help? The teacher said, the finding in psychology was that if you were the only one witnessing the rape, you would have felt compelled to intervene. Your sense of responsibility would have been overwhelming. If you’re two, somehow the responsibility gets divided into two. [When it’s a thousand] it becomes not as strong a motivating force’.”

    The snippet reminded me of the 1964 rape-murder of Catherine Susan “Kitty” Genovese, 28, an American bar manager killed outside her apartment building in Kew Gardens, in the NY Queens borough. The culprit, Winston Moseley, 29, was arrested days later. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, reduced to a life term. He died in prison last year, at 81.

    Two weeks after printing a 1964 short article on the attack, the NYTimes published a longer report that conveyed
    a scene of indifference from neighbors, saying 37 or 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack and did not call the police. The incident prompted inquiries into what became known as the bystander effect or “Genovese syndrome”. Some researchers have questioned this version of events.

    In 2015, Kitty’s younger brother, Bill, said that the cops were indeed summoned twice but did not respond; they believed it was a domestic dispute. Bill’s 2015 film “The Witness” showed an interview with Sophia Farrar, around Kitty’s age; she said in the film that she ran down when she heard Kitty’s screams and held her as she lay dying.

    Kitty lived in a Brooklyn neighborhood populated mainly by families of Italian descent. She arrived home at about 3:00 a.m. and parked her car about 100 feet from her apartment’s door. As she walked toward the apartment, Moseley, armed with a hunting knife, attacked. She ran; he ran after and overtook her and stabbed her twice in the back. She screamed. Robert Mozer, a neighbor, shouted, “Let that girl alone!”. He ran away.

    Witnesses saw him enter his car, drive away and return ten minutes later. He found Kitty, barely conscious. He stabbed her several more times before raping her, stealing $49 from her and running away again. The attacks spanned approximately half an hour.

    The public view of the story crystallized around a quote “I didn’t want to get involved.” Reports attributed the quote to nearly all of the 38 who supposedly witnessed the attack. In one book, the author “asked behavioral scientists to explain why people do or do not help a victim; sadly, he found none could offer an evidence-based answer. How ironic that this same question was answered separately by a non-scientist. When the killer was apprehended, and asked how he dared to attack a woman in front of so many witnesses, Moseley calmly replied, ‘I knew they wouldn’t do anything, people never do’.”

    The indifference prompted research into diffusion of responsibility and the bystander effect, showing that contrary to common expectations, larger numbers of bystanders decrease the likelihood that someone will step forward and help a victim. Kitty’s case became a classic feature of social psychology textbooks. A 2004 NY Times piece published on the 40th anniversary of the crime, raised numerous questions about claims in its original article.

    After Moseley’s death last year, it called its second story “flawed”, grossly exaggerating the number of witnesses and what they had perceived. In popular culture, the story of the witnesses who did nothing is taught in every introduction-to-psychology textbook.

    Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, my pal, reminds me of Salvatore Palumbo, in Jimmy Breslin’s Gang That Could Not Shoot Straight, which in turn reminds me in spots of the administration we have now. Many in the book died, due to natural causes, as bullets pumped into one natcherly affect his metabolism and result in funerals, as in Ozamiz. EJKs? We cheer our looming DECAY? The end justifies the means? Where are we going? What has happened to us as a people?

    Prez Cory had some funeral; we Yellows—proud of same, and will always be—marked her passing on August 1, 2009 with a Mass at Rockwell last Tuesday. (In fact, I wasn’t able to make it to Rockwell for the first time ever. EDSAtraaafffiiiccc. I am looking for a possible partner in the plastic urinal business.) We long ago chose to be involved. Makialam! Others followed elsewhere. Today, in Hong Kong, a yellow umbrella is a protest symbol.

    Should Digong now not get involved, with Japan, on “comfort women”? But his indifference to what is sadly going on in the drug war, with his seeming support and encouragement even, indicates to me that we are incipiently decaying. Change has indeed come?
    But, who needs this kind?

    Yesterday, little rain but I could not get to a Metro Manila court. High water. Hearings cancelled. Kasalanan ni Noynoy?

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