Samarnon Guerillas Fought for Freedom Against US Armies Before WW-I

Photo Credits: Balangiga Town Church
Photo Credits: Balangiga Town Church

About 13 years before the start of World War I that lasted from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918, a bloody war between Samarnon guerillas aided by civilians almost wiped out the entire Charlie Company of the US 9th Infantry Regiment who were inside the mess hall eating breakfast. And out of 78 US soldiers, 48 were killed and 22 were severely injured.

It was one of the bloodiest battles during the Filipino-American War in the early 20th century between American soldiers and the Samarnon guerillas who were aided by civilians that took place in Balangiga, Eastern Samar on September 28, 1901. And it was the worst defeat experienced by the US Army since the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 according to the records of their wars history.

The battle started when the guerillas and the townspeople were angered by the harsh treatment made by a Company Commander and his army against the local males and females: the invading army began to oppress the local population by garrisoning them, cutting off food supplies and assaulting/raping young women. So the Samarnon guerillas had started a plan for an attack that was to coincide with the scheduled visit of an Army Inspector General and the town fiesta celebration. The Samarnon guerillas have utilized to ring church bells as part of the plan – to signal for a simultaneous attack.

The attack by the guerillas and the civilians who were mainly armed with bolos was successful against rifles and gatling guns of the US army. However, in retaliation the US military’s response to the incident was swift and brutal. General Jacob Smith instructed his men: “I want no prisoners. I wish you kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the more it will please me. Kill everyone over the age of ten. The interior of Samar must be made into a howling wilderness.” Aside from killing the townspeople, they also burned the small villages and their crops surrounding Balangiga.

The bells signaled the simultaneous attack by the guerillas and the civilians on the US troops. And they were taken as war booties when the US Army left for the US. The bells are precious historical relics for the Philippines. The Philippine government has been repeatedly requesting the US government for the return of the bells. Until now, Filipinos are still waiting for the return of the bells which rightfully belong to the Philippines.

For other historians, the significant of Balangiga bells represents different things: They are symbols of the long hard struggle of the Filipinos for independence. They are the spoils of war – compensation for the loss of life of the US troops on that terrible day. They are religious symbols for the Catholics that need to be returned to its proper home. They are symbols for reconciliation. And for the Balangiga townspeople, they are symbols which bring together history, religion and community.

As for me, ang Balangiga bells sila ay nagpahayag kung kailan gagamitin ang Katapangan, kung kailan Didiskarte at higit sa lahat kung kailan kakailanganin ang Pagkakaisa – tulad sa ginawa at ipinakita ng mga Samarnon guerillas at mga mamamayan ng Balangiga, Eastern Samar. Sila ay matatapang, madiskarte at nagkaisa para sa isang layunin.

Ang insidenteng nangyari noon 1901 na isang madugong labanan between the Samarnon guerillas and the US Armies ay may koneksyon sa kung ano ang nasa puso at isipan ng ating mahal na Pangulong Duterte. Ang kailangan lang natin ay Tapang, Diskarte at Pagkakaisa.

He said, “We have depended on US support, adopted their views of the world, and relied on their approval. In the process, we have failed to develop our own identity as a geopolitical actor. A strong geopolitical identity is rooted in a deep understanding of one’s own diplomatic history, values, and aspirations. We can’t fully position ourselves in a strategic context if we don’t have a strong sense of self. Time to reflect as a nation: Who we are without the Americans? How does the world look like to us if we’re going to look at it with our own history, values, and aspirations? We are America’s equal; sovereign in our own domestic affairs. And just like Uncle Sam, we will chart our own destiny rooted in our understanding of our own history, guided by our own values, and shaped by our own political struggle.”

Source of info: Wikipedia-Balangiga, Eastern Samar

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