The Balangiga Bells and our colonial heritage
As far as we can make out the church in Balangiga town from TV footages which was burned down in 1901 by the Americans, it is situated like almost all Catholic churches in this country built during the Spanish time. These were prominently situated in the town plaza, even dwarfing the munisipyo which were usually situated nearby. This was intentional and symbolic of the realities of the Spanish era. For the church and its officials had equal influence, if not more, than those of the civil government. Sometimes it was the church that had the citizens by the balls psychologically, and only in rare circumstances when some Indio brave souls dared to challenge efforts to keep them cowed and subservient to the colonizers, did the guardia civil unsheathed their swords.
It was a very effective sharing of the spoils of war. For the Filipino indios could not have been conguered and kept cowed without the cooperation of the cross and the sword.
So this was reflected in the layout of town plazas where community activities were held, the prominence of the cathedral or church, along with the munisipyo. The only exception are the towns in the Cordillera and perhaps in the Muslim regions because the Igorots and the Muslims were able to successfully resist Spanish efforts to subjugate them.
So perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that the Balangiga church was burned to the ground in 1901. It was symbolic of the burning of the colonial mentality that the Catholic Church and the Spaniards have engrained in us. At last, against all odds, the people of Balangiga rose up and killed the colonial pwers then, the Americans, killing about 48 of their soldiers which resulted in the reduction of Samar into a “howling wilderness.” Boys more than 10 years old and perhaps even girls and women were massacred and the town was burned to the ground.
It resulted in untold suffering and hardship to the people of the town and so many other Filipinos. But these are what it takes to get out from the abuse and clutches of the more powerful. As one great philosopher said, “Peace is the effect of fight.”
So while that Balangiga incident was tragic and sad, it meant we got out from being subservient or from being psychologically held by the balls.**