National museum director ‘sad’ over Borongan diocese’s refusal to loan Balangiga bells

Balangiga Bells at Villamor Airbase. Photo: Screenshot from ABS-CBN News.
Balangiga Bells at Villamor Airbase. Photo: Screenshot from ABS-CBN News.

The director of the National Museum (NM) has spoken up, amidst the controversy surrounding one senator’s proposal for one of the Balangiga bells to be brought to the museum.

NM’s director Jeremy Barns called the refusal of the Diocese of Borongan — which has jurisdiction over the bells — understandable yet he thought it was delivered in a heavy-handed manner.

“The hot reaction of the Church authorities in Samar, whom we have been working with for years to rebuild the church in Guiuan since Typhoon Yolanda, is understandable – although much too strongly worded as to be provocative of  unnecessary  controversy  and  acrimony,” his statement reads, according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer. 

The statement also says: “It was  sad  to  read  it,  as  it  does  not  accurately  reflect  the  good  relationships  that  exist  between  the  government  cultural  agencies  and  numerous  dioceses  and  parishes  which  we  have  assisted,  expending  considerable  government  resources  and  public  funds  in  the  process.”

According to ABS-CBN News, Barns also denied having a hand in Senator Miguel Zubiri’s proposal in asking the government to lease one of the bells to the NM.

“We at the National Museum were not involved in any way with the resolution that was filed by Senator Zubiri, which we only learned about after the fact – nor in any other initiative, past or present, that might involve bringing any or all of the bells to the National Museum,” he said.

“But we are certainly always ready to do our job if called upon to host or otherwise care for such artifacts of the highest significance to the national patrimony.”

However, Barnes said that they are proud that Zubiri regarded the museum as a worthy place to show the bells, GMA News reported.

He said: “[W]e are proud that he regards the NM as a public institution so highly as to propose that we host one Balangiga bell for the benefit of access by the people at large in the national capital, and we thank him for his support and confidence.”

Zubiri filed Senate Resolution 965 last week which asked the government to loan one of the bells to the NM, saying that by doing so, “every Filipino from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao [will have] an opportunity to get a glimpse of an important piece of our nation’s history.”

However, the Diocese of Borongan rejected the proposal, saying that it “does violence to history and the sacred character and purpose of the Balangiga Bells.”

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