Balangiga Massacre

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"Balangiga massacre"
Part of Philippine-American War
Date September 28, 1901
Location Samar, Philippines
Result Decisive Filipino victory
Filipino Revolutionary Army of Samar United States Army
General Vicente Lukban Captain Thomas W. Connell
180-200 Samareno bolomen 78 (Company C. U.S. 9th Infantry Regiment)
Casualties and losses
20-25 killed, 22 wounded; plus thousands of Samar civilians killed in reprisals 54 killed, 18 wounded

100 rifles and 25,000 rounds of ammunition captured

Balangiga Massacre is an incident which occurred on September 28, 1901. The residents of Balangiga killed the American soldiers in an unforeseen attack using only their swords (tabak). The locals surprised the American troops at their breakfast table with an outraging attack using their bolos in retaliation for the destruction or confiscation of their food stocks, and their mission to free their fellowmen who had been held for forced labor and detained for days starving in congested conditions.


The Arrival

In August 1901, Balangiga was a small seaside village of 200 nipa houses in Samar, Visayas. On August 11, 1901, the Company C, 9th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army sailed to the town in response to the town mayor's petition to establish a garrison and to protect the town from Muslim and rebel raids. It consisted of seventy-four veterans, most of whom had seen service not only in China but also in Cuba and Northern Luzon. It was led by Captain Thomas Connell and his second in command, Lt. E. C. Bumpus.

Upon arrival, the American soldiers took over the affairs of the town and forcibly occupied some of the local huts. All male residents, eighteen years and above, were ordered to leave their families to clear the surrounding forests that were suspected to be the refuge of guerrillas. At night, these men were hauled into open wooden pens unsuitable for lodging. To aggravate matters, an American even raped a village lass, although no reference makes mention of this.

The Outbreak

The townspeople's decision to attack the U.S. Army was an attack that was planned all along due to their opposition to the puritanical ideals of the Americans as well as their plan to free the men who were subjected to forced labor and detained for days with little food and water.

On the night of September 27, 1901, the villagers made their move. A procession of heavily clothed women carrying baby coffins were heading to the church. A sergeant, suspicious of what's going on, stopped a woman and pried open a coffin only to see a dead child. The woman shouted “El calenturon! El colera!” He let the woman pass without any idea that all coffins were loaded with bolos which will be used for the attack.

General Jake "Howling" Smith and his staff inspecting the ruins of Balangiga in October 1901, a few weeks after the massacre

The following day (September 29 at 6:20 a.m.), under the command of Brig. General Vicente Lukban, a surprise attack was launched while all 74 American soldiers were eating their breakfast. Pedro Sanchez, chief of police of the town lined up around 80 laborers to start the daily town cleaning. Sanchez walked behind a sentry, grabbed his rifle and knocked down his head. He fired the rifle as a signal and the whole townsfolk started the invasion. The bells of Balangiga were rung, signaling the attack of 400 men led by the highest town official. The soldiers were hacked to death resulting in 54 deaths and 18 wounded. So grisly were the deaths that it was prominently played up in the news.

Company C was nearly wiped out during the first few terrible minutes. But a small group of American soldiers, a number of them wounded, were able to secure their rifles and fight back, killing some 250 Filipinos. The Company C survivors escaped by sea and set off for Basey. The survivors did not reach Basey until early next morning. The townspeople returned to bury their dead, then abandoned the town.

The Revenge

General Jacob H. Smith's infamous order "KILL EVERYONE OVER TEN" was the caption in the New York Journal cartoon on May 5, 1902.

On October 23, 1901, Brigadier General Jacob Smith ordered a battalion of 300 U.S. Marines, under the command of then Major Littleton W. Waller, to make Samar "a howling wilderness". The Americans retaliated by burning the whole town and by killing all civilians from 10 years old and above. The one year campaign to take back Samar turned the whole island into an area of inhospitable surroundings. The American forces maximized the destruction by taking the two Balangiga church bells and a rare 1557 cannon as war booty and shipping them to Wyoming.

Cover of the"Balangiga 1901" music CD album

Almost a hundred years after the Balangiga incident, the current Philippine government is making representations to retrieve these national treasures. In fact a music CD album was launched at the "Balangiga Rocks!" concert at the Folk Arts Theater in Manila on July 19, 2003.


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