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Symbol of Philippines' Fight With US Colonialism Returns Home

© REUTERS / Erik De CastroPresident Rodrigo Duterte speaks at a ceremony marking the return of the three Balangiga bells
President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at a ceremony marking the return of the three Balangiga bells - Sputnik International
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The war between the US and Philippines erupted in 1899, as the First Philippine Republic fought for recognition of its independence. The conflict took the lives of 16,000 Philippine fighters and reportedly led to hundreds of thousands of deaths due to famine and disease.

The residents of the Philippine town of Balangiga have rejoiced at the return of the long-lost bronze church bells, which were taken away by US soldiers in the 1900s as the spoils of the Philippine-American war. Following decades of calls for their return, the US agreed to give back the bells, which are viewed in the Philippines as symbol in the fight against colonisation. These bells rang to signal the beginning of the attack by American troops during the Philippine-American war.

The Philippine Navy's band marches in front of the Russian Navy's guided missile cruiser Varyag, docked during a goodwill visit, at Pier 15, South Harbor, Metro Manila, Philippines April 20, 2017. - Sputnik International
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When the three bells were returned to Balangiga, numerous residents came to celebrate the event. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also attended the celebration and announced that the return of the bells was achieved by the joint efforts of both the Philippine and American people. Town Mayor Randy Graza said that the townspeople are "overwhelmed with joy and happiness" and said that "no amount of words can describe" the feelings of Balangiga's residents.

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The Philippine-American war took place between 1899 and 1902. Back then the First Philippine Republic was attempting to fight for its independence from the US, with the latter interpreting it as an insurgency. The conflict claimed the lives of 16,000 Philippine fighters, but many more of the country's citizens died as a result of a subsequent famine and disease. According to some estimates their number may be up to one million.

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