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XU SCHOLARSHIP DONOR. American businessman and philanthropist Henry B Howard was instrumental in the return of the Balangiga Bells to its original place in Eastern Samar on December 11. File photo.

MANILA, Philippines — American businessman Henry Howard was hailed by both the public and private sectors for playing a "major role" in the return of the Balangiga Bells to its original place in Eastern Samar on December 11.

Howard, who heads the private US-Philippines Society, is also Philippine Honorary Consul in Miami, Florida.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy"€ Locsin Jr, in a tweet, thanked Howard for his "indispensable help in getting [back the bells]."€

Center for Strategic and International Studies president and CEO John Hamre, in an email, said the return of the Balangiga Bells "would never have happened" without Howard's leadership.

The controversial Balangiga Bells

According to Howard, all three bells (the two removed from Wyoming and one removed from South Korea) will arrive at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Dec 11 via US military transport plane.

Howard, together with US Defense deputy assistant secretary for Joseph Felter, will arrive in Manila on Dec 9 to await the arrival of the Balangiga Bells.

Meanwhile, the bells will arrive in Tacloban, Leyte via Philippine Air Force plane and be transferred by land to Balangiga, Eastern Samar on December 15.

Howard will also be in Tacloban City on December 14.

President Rodrigo R Duterte and the Catholic church hierarchy are expected to attend the event.

In the article "Christmas bells for Balangiga," Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel€ Romualdez described Howard as having "played a major role in the return of the bells, using his personal resources" together with Felter.

Romualdez said Howard gave updates on developments on the progress of the bells' return and lobbied hard, as a provision in the new 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDDA) stated that "the bells may only be transferred if the Secretary of Defense certifies to Congress that their transfer is in the national security interest of the US, that appropriate steps are taken to preserve the history of the veterans associated with the bells, and that consultations with local communities in Wyoming have been done."

On August 9, US Defense Secretary James Mattis notified US Congress of its intention to return the Balangiga Bells to the country after a year-long consultative process with an associated veterans organizations and government officials. American soldiers took the bells from the Balangiga Church in Samar as war booty following the "Balangiga Massacre" in 1901.

Xavier Ateneo scholarship benefactor

In March 2018, Howard visited Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan, to grace the celebration of the 17th anniversary of his scholarship program named for his late parents — Henry H Howard and Gertrude L Bagley. 

In 2001, Howard donated US$1M to Xavier Ateneo, intended for scholarships and financial assistance to the educational pursuits of the “poorest of the poor in Mindanao and Sulu.”

Since its establishment, the Howard Scholarship Program has supported more than 135 scholars from various parts of Mindanao coming from different religious and cultural backgrounds.

At present, there are 22 Howard undergraduate scholars (16 of whom are graduating in March 2019) at Xavier Ateneo and one high school scholar.∎ (With a report from Azer Parrocha of PNA)