By Mr. Thomas Blakely Hamilton III (West Point)May 19, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 19, 2016) - The United States Military Academy and United States Army Garrison at West Point held a valediction ceremony and Catholic Mass for the return of the San Pedro Bell to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Bauang, La Union, Philippines, April 29.
The San Pedro Bell was mounted outside the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Chapel on West Point.
In 1883, Father Mariano Garcia, assistant priest of Bauang in the Philippines, was given a large bell by the then Province Lieutenant Governor D. Mariano Balancio and Lieutenant D.O. Hilario Calica. The bell, an alloy of gold, silver and copper, was baptized and named, San Pedro.
The San Pedro Bell was almost destroyed during the Philippine Insurrection, but the advance of American forces prevented it and other bells across the Philippines from being melted down and made into weapons.
Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Barry, U.S. Military Academy at West Point class of 1877 and 27th Superintendent of the Military Academy, served in the Philippines during the Insurrection and through cooperative efforts in the Philippines, helped transfer the bell to West Point in 1915. Barry wrote "While this bell is the property of the United States Military Academy, I hope it may be used at the West Point Catholic Chapel in the belfry..."
The bell was intended to be placed in the belfry as a working bell for the church but due to unknown circumstances remained, for 44 years, un-hung and un-rung. During an expansion of the Catholic Chapel in 1959 it was discovered and given a place of honor outside the Chapel on the southern side. A new base for the bell was designed in the 1980's and funded by the West Point Chapter of the Daughters of the U.S. Army. It stood there for 57 years as a symbol of peace.
The San Pedro Bell along with other objects that were removed from churches during the Philippine American War were thought to be innocent souvenirs at the time, but were Church property protected by Army General Order 100.
In November of 2015, the pastor of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Bauang, La Union, Philippines wrote a letter the Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., the current Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, requesting the return of the San Pedro Bell.
Working with the Philippine government, the Diocese of San Fernando of La Union, Philippines and the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and U.S. Army Garrison West Point coordinated the return and said goodbye to the San Pedro bell in a valediction ceremony and Catholic Mass that was held at the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Chapel at West Point on April 29, at 11:45 a.m.
After 101 years, The San Pedro bell is now on its way home to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul and will be received with celebration and prayer.