BORONGAN CITY, Dec 11 (PIA)--Fr. Serafin Tybaco, parish priest of San Lorenzo de martyr in Balangiga town, shares his overwhelming joy and unexplainable happiness as the bells will be returned to his parish.
In a talk with the Philippine Information Agency, he said the bells symbolize the deep faith of Balangiganons, remembering the bravery of their ancestors.
"Balangiga folks are peace-loving and they want reconciliation," he told PIA.
Unknown to many, Fr. Tybaco on July 4, 2017, sent Col. Stacey Huser, USAF at Wyoming USA, an emotional letter seeking the return of the bells.
In his letter, he cited the history of the parish, that the church of San Lorenzo was founded in 1854 and with the sacrifices of the parishioners, acquired three church bells.
He then cited that the same bells were taken after a military engagement between Filipinos fighting for their independence and the Americans.
He further appealed for the church bells return as it is an integral part of the Filipino heritage.
"Church bells are an integral part of our heritage, culture and traditions-especially in smaller town like Balangiga, where church bells are used to announce weddings, deaths and calls parishioners to prayer." The letter further wrote.
Tybaco also added in his letter how the Balangiga parishioners struggled to rehabilitate the church damaged by Typhoon Yolanda with the help of the Catholics Bishops Conference (CBCP).
"To complement the work off the CBCP, our parishioners raised P 500,00 or ($11,000) to acquire new bells."
"The fact that people who do not have much money to begin with donated sufficient funds to buy two new church bells, demonstrates just how important bells are to our parishioners."
He added that nothing beats the original ones.
"While these bells are functional, they cannot replace the esteem, love and devotion we have for the original bells taken in 1901."
The parish priest then enumerated the instances when Americans retirned some bells to their rightful owners.
He talked of a church bell from Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Bauang, La Union returned by the US Military Academy at West Point.
In 1987, too, as the letter wrote, the US Naval Academy also returned a bell to Japan.
"Many cities in the US also returned bells to Japan they inherited from returning ships after WWll."
In his final paragraph the priest also quoted poet John Donne in his 'For Whom the Bell tolls' quoting" For Whom the Bells toll, they toll for thee."
"We hope and pray that one day, we will hear the ringing of the bells of San Lorenzo de Martyr in Balangiga knowing that these bells would be tolling for us-the givers and receivers reinforcing the interconnectedness of the two nations." He wrote.
As he bid goodbye to PIA in the short engagement, the parish priest could not hide his feelings as he knew deep in his heart that the return of the bells after 117 years will bring closure to war. (NBQ/PIA 8-E Samar)