CHICAGO (JGL) – “RETURN TO SOURCE.”
“SHIP TO: CLARK DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
E. QUIRINO AVENUE, FREEPORT ZONE, PHILIPPINES, c/o ATTY. ARTHUR P. TUGADE.
“FOR ONWARD SHIPMENT TO: CHURCH OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
CENTRAL EAST, BAUANG, LA UNION, 2501 PHILIPPINES
C/O REVEREND FATHER RONALD R. O. CHAN.”
The value of the shipment may only be US$100 but this “one Church Bell and yoke” are actually priceless heirlooms as their “Return to Source” after 115 years had answered the prayers of grateful parishioners.
The shipment of such historic artifact may be the last to be coursed thru Attorney Tugade as he prepares to take over the reins of the Department of Transportation and Communication as its new Secretary under the new Duterte Administration and Dennis Wright, who received the shipment, said the “Church Bell and yoke” came safely in “one piece” just in time when it is rededicated on May 23 at the Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Bauang, La Union.
After more than hundred years of being away from the Philippines, the San Pedro bell of the Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Bauang, had finally landed on Philippine soil, according to Wright, president of Peregrine Development International based in the former Clark Air Base in Pampanga.
Delivered, packed and crated by Federal Express from Fort Drum New York storage site, the church bell will be delivered “late Sunday afternoon for the mounting on the new display stand and subsequent unveiling Monday morning. Again many thanks to all of you who help make this a reality,” Wright said.
The 1,270-pound crate of alloy of gold, silver, and copper will be loaded on a truck and delivered to Sts. Peter and Paul Church it will be finally housed for good.
The bell was taken away by a United States Army officer from the Philippines during the Philippine American War in 1901. It was later brought to the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Chapel at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York in 1915, where it resided since.
Last April 29, the bell started its journey home with a sendoff ceremony where a mass was celebrated at the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Chapel.
The return of the bell was made possible thru the cooperation of Wright and another organizer, Dan Mckinnon, who were former U.S. Navy Shipmates. They founded the Clark Veterans Cemetery Restoration Association, a non-profit entity that lobbied U.S. Congress to get the cemetery back under the U.S. Government care and administration. Wright is the CVCRA chair while McKinnon is the CVCRA vice chair.
The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul is one of the oldest in the Philippines when it was established in 1587 by the Augustinians.
FATHER CHAN WROTE TO THE U.S. WEST POINT SUPERINTENDENT
Its current pastor, the Rev. Father Ronald Raymund O. Chan, wrote a letter on Nov. 10, 2015 to Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr., Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, seeking the return of the bell.
After receiving the letter of Father Chan, Lt. Gen. Caslen, Jr. responded by agreeing to return the church bell, “which generated considerable excitement because of its comparison to the two “Bells of Balangiga” held on a U.S. Air Force base in Wyoming,” according to Wright and McKinnon.
On April 29, the bell was rung for the last time on U.S. soil, was packed and began its journey back to its rightful home in Bauang in the Philippines after remaining 101 years at West Point.
Among those who attended the valediction ceremony was Col. Matthew Pawlikowski, chaplain, who welcomed the guests. The Philippine and U.S. national anthems were played by the West Point Band with Congregation.
Philippine New York Consul General Mario L. De Leon, Jr. and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Military Academy, Col. Wayne A. Green, both delivered remarks as well as those from the US-Philippine Society and the West Point Society of the Philippines, Consul Gen. (Ret.) Sonny Busa and singing of Bayan Ko (my land/my people) followed. The bell was also blessed by Father Pawlikowski before the final ringing of the bell.
This bell was presented to one of the predecessors of Father Chan, a Spanish friar named Mariano Garcia, who was pastor from 1877, by then Province Lieutenant-Governor D. Mariano Balancio and a Lieutenant D. D. Hilario Calica.
The bell – an alloy of gold, silver, and copper – was baptized and named San Pedro. It was almost destroyed during the Philippine Insurrection (Philippine-American War), but the advance of American forces prevented it and other bells and metals from being melted down and made into guns.
“SYMBOL OF PEACE THAT WAR CANNOT DESTROY”
Father Chan said, “The inscriptions on the bell as well as our church records and those of the provincial government substantiate these facts.”
Father Chan said he is not exactly sure how San Pedro bell found its way to West Point Academy. But he added, “We believe it was taken from the church during the Philippine American War and was then transferred to the U.S. by an American Army officer, Thomas H. Barry (USMA, 1877).”
Barry served in the Philippines during the Philippine American War and became the 27th Superintendent of the U.S Military Academy.
Through cooperative efforts in the Philippines, Barry sent the bell to West Point in 1915 with the following note: “While this bell is the property of the United States Military Academy, I hope it may be used at the West Point Catholic Chapel in the belfry.”
The bell remained in the Church belfry for 44 years unhung and unrung only to be “discovered” during the 1959 expansion of the Chapel. It rests outside the Chapel on a base, which was designed in the 1980’s and funded by the West Point chapter of the Daughters of the U.S. Army.
“It has remained a symbol of peace that even the ravages of war could not destroy.”