In 1865 the first of three bells was placed in a wooden bell-tower1 next to the church on the north side and separated from it. Typical for churches of the period, it was not a tall structure, at most just 10 metres or so.
A small bell tower occupies the space today.
This first bell bears no inscription of the priest at the time it was installed. It belongs to a style common in Samar churches and another, with a full inscription, almost identical is today in Palapag, Northern Samar, dated 1793. It may be that Balangiga’s bell was an ‘off-the-shelf’ affair. Its inscription reads simply: “R San Francisco ano 1863″2.
Balangiga continued to grow and in 1889 a specially made bell was cast, with the Franciscan emblem and the words ” Sagrado Corazon De Jesus … Se Refundio Siendo Cura Parroco El M.R.P.F. Agustin Delcad ano 1889.”
Today, just above the top line is scratched ‘1900’ for unknown reasons.
Father Agustin Delcado was responsible for Balangiga parish at the time3. Later he moved to Guiuan, on a peninsula to the east of Balangiga. He did not, however, forget the town. At least once he was to play chess with officers of the ill-fated Company C, 9th Infantry Regiment and carry the men’s mail to Tacloban.
Finally, a third, smaller, bell was cast in 1896 for the parish of Father Bernardo Aparecio, who was then responsible for Balangiga’s spiritual needs4. Father Bernardo also administered two schools, one for boys, the other for girls, which were built between 1892 and 18945.
Similar inscriptions on the Aparecio and Delcado bells – ‘refundio’ – indicate that the bells were made of recycled bronze rather than virgin metal. It may be that they were recast from earlier bells, or from old bronze cannon once used for defence. The gap between years suggests that perhaps the priests or the town principalia collected pieces of bronze and cash over time to provide the raw material and pay the bell founder.
None of the three bells bear a maker’s mark although the two newer bells are typical of the work of Hilario Sunico.
These bells carried out more than merely religious duties. They tolled the passing of time, gave the alarm for fires, rang out warnings of approaching vessels and signalled each event in the town’s everyday life.
In these bells was invested the soul of Balangiga.
1 Brown, Frederick, The History of the 9th Infantry
2 Tarbell, Edward, personal communication. Mr. Tarbell, a Wyoming resident, kindly provided the measurements and inscriptions of the bells in 1998. There were confirmed by a member of the American Legion in Wyoming in 2001.
3 Balangiga parish records
4 Balangiga parish records
5 Duran, Nemesio,