Several people, both Filipinos and Americans, exerted efforts to bring the bells back to Eastern Samar. Sometime in 1957, the first public effort to recover the bells came by way of a letter from an Atenean priest and history professor H.V. de la Costa. The letter fell on deaf ears. Sometime in the 1990s, President Fidel Ramos, a United States Military Academy graduate, formally corresponded with US President Bill Clinton regarding the return of the bells, to no avail. Several years thereafter, Catholic Church leaders in Samar formally wrote to President George W. Bush to facilitate the return of the bells, but again, to no avail. On two occasions, several members of the United States Congress sponsored resolutions to authorize the return of the bells to the Philippines. But yet again, these efforts proved futile. Last year, when President Duterte demanded their return, several US legislators and the state of Wyoming, where two of the three bells were kept, vehemently objected. But, somehow, the stars were aligned, so to speak, to allow the return of the bells after 117 years.
Success in the recovery of the Balangiga bells came slowly. The significance of these bells transcends all military, diplomatic or religious considerations. To me, this episode serves as a testament that we can never control the outcome of our efforts. While it took more than a century to settle the controversy surrounding the church bells, faith and patience were the material ingredients for its success.
Legendary basketball coach and inspirational author John Wooden is also known for his leadership and management principles as reflected in his Pyramid of Success. Attributes like friendship, loyalty, poise, skill and team spirit are some of the building blocks of success. But, topmost in Wooden's pyramid is faith and patience. Faith, for Coach Wooden, is more about trusting in something higher than us. Faith is about believing that there is a master plan of which we are mere participants who must still work hard to achieve a desired outcome. Faith is not simply sitting back and waiting for the best. Faith is more about working hard enough to get the job done and expecting that our goals will be met, providentially. On the other hand, patience is more about being steadfast amid the opposition or adversity. We must believe that if we put in the time and the effort now, things will work out well in the future. Perhaps goals will not be achieved in our lifetime, but at least we have planted the seeds for others to nurture and God will surely make them grow. As it is written in 1 Corinthians 3:7, 'So neither He who plants nor He who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.'
Wooden believes that success is not about winning but having a peace of mind, which is achieved every time a person gives his best whenever he can. Wooden's philosophy focuses on what we can control, our actions, and realizing that the outcome, win or lose, is a by-product that may or may not go our way. To him, success is more about the 'getting there' and giving our best in everything we do and having the faith to patiently wait for and accept the outcome. The case of the Balangiga bells is a case in point. So, to the Filipinos and Americans from 1957 to 2018, who unwittingly conspired to bring the bells back to Balangiga, I salute you for providing us a lesson that everything does happen in God's perfect time, which never comes a day late or a day early.
Wooden's success formula does not only apply to basketball or any athletic competition. The formula can also be used in personal relationships. I know of a father who divorced his wife, yet maintained a very close relationship with his children. Somehow, the relationship got strained to the point that the children refused to see and talk to their father for several years. But with faith and patience, the father remains hopeful that their once solid and sweet relationship will soon be restored. He considers himself successful, adopting Wooden's pyramid of success, having achieved a peace of mind despite the current estranged relationship with his children.
In the Bible, Romans 8:25 tells us, 'But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.' As we personally set goals by way of New Year's resolutions, let us be reminded that the success of a new diet plan, an income target, or a new relationship will never be achieved without faith and patience. We will always succeed, no matter how long it takes, whenever we have peace of mind knowing that we exerted our best efforts in all situations given to us. That's how John Wooden managed to become the winningest basketball coach in America. As to the bells of Balangiga, let them be rung to indicate full speed ahead for everyone to learn that with faith and patience, success is simply having peace of mind.