Three bells looted by USA troops more than a century ago have been returned to their church in the Philippines.
USA troops carted away the bronze objects as trophies, after razing the town and killing potentially thousands of Filipinos, in reprisal for a surprise 1901 attack that left 48 of their comrades dead.
The historic Balangiga Bells returned to its home region of Eastern Samar on Friday, December 14, a day before it is formally handed over to the local parish that owns the historic artifacts.
Residents of a sleepy, nondescript eastern Philippine town on Saturday celebrated the return of three bronze-alloy church bells seized by United States troops in 1901.
One of the bells was with the USA 9th Infantry Regiment in Korea and the other two were at a former 11th Infantry Regiment base in Wyoming.
In August, the US Embassy announced the return of the so-called Balangiga bells after decades of pressure.
The proposal came from Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who filed Senate Resolution No. 965 "urging the Philippine government to share with the Filipino people one of the Balangiga Bells by placing it in the National Museum".
He added that because of the return of the bells, town residents were like "walking in the clouds".
Manila has drifted away from the U.S., its historical ally, since Duterte came to power in 2016.
This comes after the United States on December 11 returned the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines after 117 years.
"We are the happiest people on Earth now", he added, noting he is descended from the boy who rang one of the bells, long said to have signalled the attack on the Americans.
Following decades of calls for their return, the U.S. agreed to give back the bells, which are viewed in the Philippines as symbol in the fight against colonisation.
"More than just a part of the Balangiga Church, these bells are a significant element in our country's religious and historical narrative".
"I therefore trust that our "kababayan" (countrymen) in Balangiga and the rest of the country will ensure the protection of these gems".
"I congratulate the Filipino people for forging a history that [we] could all forever be proud of".
Despite calls for their return for decades, U.S. veterans and politicians said the bells were tributes to the killed United States troops and refused to consider their repatriation.
But after continued Filipino pressure and waning opposition in the United States, the bells were flown to Manila earlier this week for Saturday's ceremony in Balangiga. "I am sure that our ancestors are celebrating with us here on this remarkable victory and that does not only bring back the glory of the town of Balangiga, but also contributes in the full restoration of our dignity as a Filipino", he said.
The handover ceremony took place far from the town plaza that holds a monument with statues of the American soldiers having breakfast as the Filipino revolutionaries raise their machetes at the start of the 1901 onslaught. At the same time Duterte signalled an end to the standoff with Beijing over the disputed South China Sea.
"It's mixed emotions because the bells also remind me of what happened", Constancia Elaba, 62, told AFP, adding how she grew up hearing stories of the episode from her father.
"It was painful and you can not take it away from us", she said.
"That was OK for us: we were so humble before the gift of the bells to be received", he said.