Like the bells of Balangiga: Kin of Golden Tara’s finder want relic returned

By Ben Serrano

The four-pound, eight-inch, 24-carat “Golden Image of Agusan” is currently on display at the Chicago Fields Museum in the United States.

Like the Balingaga Bells by which President Duterte in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) pressed the United States to return, relatives of the Manobo woman who found the Golden Tara wanted the relic’s return too.

“Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are part of our national heritage … return it to us, this is painful for us,”
Duterte said in his nationally televised at the House of Representatives, attended by the U.S. ambassador and other diplomats.

The three Balingaga bells which were seized by American soldiers as spoils of war and the Golden Tara are now in the US.

Two of the bells are displayed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo. They are part of a memorial to 46 U.S. troops killed by Filipino insurgents in 1901. A third bell is with a U.S. Army regiment in South Korea.

While the 13th century relic considered as one of the most important archeological discoveries in the Philippines is now at the Chicago Fields Museum in the US.

At the Chicago Museum, the four-pound, eight-inch, 24-carat relic is being referred to as the “Golden Image of Agusan.”

Constancia Guiral and Danilo Isid, great grandchildren of Belay Campos, who found the Golden Tara at the bank of Agusan River in what is now Esperanza town in Agusan del Sur province in 1917, said they want it returned to the Philippines , if not in Agusan del Sur where it was originally found due safety reason but at the National Museum in Manila.

“So the Filipno people can see it and will know,” said Guiral , who disclosed their family also wanted “finder’s fee.”

Guiral, 66, said Belay accidentally found the Golden Tara underneath an acacia tree along Agusan River after a storm and flood in 1917.

“She and her sisters thought at first was a shining doll at first. Later, the siblings and their parents started worshipping the Tara, and placed it in an altar,” Guiral recalled.

She said the Tara was stolen a few months later but it was returned. But then, it was stolen again, and subsequently, it became the property of another person.

“Because all of them were unschooled, they did not know what to do. All they did was just remember that once the Godlen Tara belonged to them,” Guiral said.

A group calling themselves Golden Tara Community of Agusan organized by Filipino Lama Yeshe Lhundrup, a practitioner and devout Tibetan Buddhist elected Dr. Potenciano Malvar historian and local owner of Balanghai Hotel and Convention Center in Butuan as president, with another local historian Greg Hontiveros as vice president.

The Butuan-based group is planning a Golden Tara centennial celebration this year- to commemorate the 100-year discovery of the Golden Tara.

Lhundrup told Caraga News Courier that the Golden Tara is not just an ordinary golden relic but has spiritual value which includes spiritual awakening and cleansing.

“Once back in the Philippines, it may signal or spark some spiritual renewal, enlightenment of many Filipinos based on Hindu beliefs, an awakening of the Filipino nation longed fallen asleep, “Lhundrup said .

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