BACK HOME. Eight Filipino sailors led by Capt. Restituto Bulilan (second from left), who were part of the crew of a Japanese tanker that was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia in East Africa arrive in Manila after being held hostage for six weeks. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ROGER MARGALLO
8 RP seamen home after 45 days with pirates
By Tina Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 08:51pm (Mla time) 12/23/2007
THIS COULD be the happiest Christmas for eight of the nine Filipino seamen who were taken hostage by pirates in Somalia two months ago.
Led by Capt. Restituto Bulilan, the seamen returned home via Cathay Pacific flight CX919 at around 4:40 p.m. Saturday.
"Very stressful" was how Bulilan described their 45-day ordeal in the hands of the pirates.
Bulilan narrated that the pirates boarded their vessel around 2 a.m. on Oct. 29, held them at gunpoint and took them to Somalia to Jaira in the Middle East.
"It was very stressful, there were so many problems, every day there were problems," Bulilan said of their captivity.
One didn't come home
He said he and his crew were mauled, hit by guns and not allowed to talk.
Those taken hostage, besides Bulilan, were Melchor Cayabyab, chief mate; Loreto Quiles, second mate; Raymundo Panaligan, third mate; Mario Ocenar, chief engineer; Adelino Amparo, first engineer: Carlito Lotoc, second engineer; Laureano Villanueva, buson; and Ismael Perez, chief cook.
Quiles was not in the group that returned home. It was not immediately clear why he was not in the group.
Speaking on behalf of the seven seamen who returned home with him, Bulilan said they were grateful to the officials of the Philippine Embassy for "doing everything to take them home."
No ransom paid?
"Ang alam ko wala [What I know was there was none]," he said when asked if a ransom was paid for their release.
"As far as I'm concerned, it was the owner of the ship who facilitated the release," Bulilan said, adding that they also learned that a US Navy ship had helped.
The nine Filipinos were part of the crew of a Japanese tanker that was hijacked by pirates on dangerous waters off the coast of Somalia in East Africa.
The 6,253-ton tanker was carrying crew members from Burma, the Philippines and South Korea and up to 40,000 tons of highly explosive benzene.
$1M ransom demand
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had said the pirates threatened to kill the crew if a $1 million ransom was not paid.
Officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs said they had no information on whether or not money changed hands to obtain the release of the Filipino sailors.