The church bells has so many contributions not only in terms in religion, but also in the different lives touched by its bell tones to the Magaleños. In my childhood days, we tend to go up in the belfry to see those large four bells; in addition of beautiful scenery of Magalang atop in the belfry. In San Bartolome Church's belfry, there are four large rotary bells hanged so many years ago. These bells are rang during before and after masses, baptisms and even for the final blessings of the dead. It also featured movie shots on these bells or its tones especially in the film Ina, Kapatid Anak (1979); Joko Diaz's action movie Squala (1998) and the TV Series Pangako Sa Iyo (2000) where the love teams; Jodi Sta Maria and Patrick Garcia's love scenes were shot at the belfry.
The church bells were made by the famous bell caster, Hilario Sunico; a Chinese mestizo and a gobernadorcillo of Binondo, Manila. His bell foundry was located in #20 Calle Jaboneros, San Nicolas, Manila. He cast four large rotary bells and its inscriptions and their pictures are indicated below:
Smallest (top right): Año de 1886- 12 (arrobas) and 6 libras (pounds)
Medium Size (top left and cracked): Siendo Cura Parocco de Magalang año de 1887- 22 and 17 lbs.
Bigger Size (below left): Dedicada de la Virgen de la Correa. La Mando Fundir El M.R.P. Fr. Fernando Vasquez En. Marzo de 1889- 38 at 2 lbs
Biggest Front (below right): Dedicado A.S. Bartolome Apostol Ymandada Fundir Por M.R.P. Fr. Fernando Vasquez Con Limosanas Recosidas En El Pueblo de Magalan en 1890-61 at 3 lbs.
All of these four bells; the star of all is the biggest San Bartolome Bell. This bell is the largest bell hanged in the front of the belfry; and it completes the grand facade of the church. This bell is subject to different gossips and urban legends pertaining to its majestic mellow tone. This bell according to the old folks, when it ranged, it will produced a crystal clear tone that will hear all over Magalang and to its farther barrios because it that time, houses were made up of light materials and few vehicles were seen in Magalang; making its loud tone heard all over the town. A gossip circulated in that time; this bell was alleged taken down by the military, an order from a former president to use in a grand wedding of his daughter. Despite to all gossips and talks of the town about this bell, this bell is still hanging on the belfry, but it was rarely used due to its bad condition; especially when its clapper was broken and was replaced by a steel clapper which is made the tone of the bell very dim. Historian, Mariano A. Henson praised this bell due to its fascinating tone with the combination with the smallest bell and the Virgen de la Correa bell during plegaria and the three bells are in extraordinarily alluring harmony.
These bells reshaped also the history of the town; especially during war times. During Philippine-American war, it was used to give warnings to the townspeople. When the Americans invaded and captured Magalang, Americans prohibited to use these bells but they allowed for religious purposes only. During Japanese period, a Japanese soldier shot the Siendo bell to stop the guerrillas to rang the bell to give warning and signal to their comrades. But after the liberation of Magalang in 1945, the joyful folks rang the bells to give a joyful message that Magalang was liberated by the Americans.
Today, all of this bells are silenced due to its bad conditions. The Siendo bell was already cracked and unusable and the clapper of San Bartolome bell was broken, but it was replaced by a steel clapper which makes the tone of this great bell dim. Only the Virgen de la Correa bell is rang in very rare occasions. Recently, San Bartolome Parish launched a restoration project of the bells. The parish priest, Rev. Fr. Mario Sol M. Gabriel tapped the services of the Royal Bells Philippines to do the task to restore the glory of the bells. According to the bell expert of Royal Bells, Bro. Eddie Otacan; the tones of the bells especially the San Bartolome bell, "is the treasure of the midst". He added that these bells are having "one of the best bell tones in the Philippines". Recently, the project was in fund raising stage and we will hope that this project will become successful.
These bells are the symbols of our deep faith to God. But it is also the one of the greatest treasures that will complete the Magaleños for their religious and heritage connections.