ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippinesâ€”(UPDATE) The thought of her baby daughter strengthened her will to escape from her Abu Sayyaf kidnappers. And on Saturday night, Leah Patriz finally did.
Patriz, 29, was still having a hard time recounting her ordeal when she faced reporters on Sunday, but said her daughter occupied her thoughts during her captivity of more than four months.
"Siya ang nagbigay lakas at inspirasyon sa akin na maging matatag at makatakas (She gave me the strength and the inspiration to be steadfast in my desire to survive and escape)," she said.
An earlier report by Agence France-Presse said her kidnappers, suspected Abu Sayyaf members, freed her. It quoted Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar as saying pursuit operations by police and military forces pressured the gunmen into leaving her behind.
Patrizâ€™s release came four days after Abu Sayyaf militants also on Basilan island freed Sri Lankan peace activist Umar Jaleel, who was seized the same month as the Filipina.
Patriz and two other colleagues, Ahmad Sali Iliang and Nashra Mujain, were kidnapped in Sumisip town on February 3. They are collectors of the micro-finance firm Kasanyangan Foundation Inc.
Mujain escaped during the abduction while Iliang was freed on February 6.
Sensing that her six abductors had been feeling tired the past two weeks, Patriz planned her escape.
"Nagplano na ako. Bahala na. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ito na ang pagkakataon ko (I made plans. I told myself this is my chance)," Patriz said.
On Saturday night, her captors were already in "deep sleep" at 8 p.m.
Patriz then placed all her thingsâ€”paper, bags, shoes, and even a water container on her hammockâ€”hoping her kidnappers would mistake the pile for her sleeping form.
Leaving her slippers under the hammock, Patriz walked barefoot to her freedom.
Basilan Vice Governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul said Patriz walked for five hours.
An old man, whom Sakalahul identified as Halikil, found Patriz asking for help.
Halikil brought Patriz to Sumisip Mayor Haber Asarul's house in the village of Manggal.
"Sa ngayon hindi ko talaga alam kung sino ang dapat pasalamatan. Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala na malaya na ako. Parang nananaginip pa ako (At this point, I still don't know whom to thank. I still cannot believe I'm free. It's as if I'm in a dream)," Patriz said.
Basilan Governor Jum Jainuddin Akbar said no ransom was paid because Patriz escaped.
Akbar said authorities have been doing everything to rescue two remaining kidnap victims in the province.
Still in the hands of their captors are fishermen Ronnie Nabie and Renante Saquen of Tuburan town, and Eugenio Vagni, a 62-year-old Italian Red Cross worker kidnapped on the nearby island of Jolo in January along with a Filipina and a Swiss colleague. The two other hostages were freed in April.
The Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks, including bombings and high-profile kidnappings. It is on the US government's list of wanted foreign terrorist organizations.(inquirer.net)