MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/ 17 Oct) – “I was made to do the laundry and cook. Not a day that I did not think I will die here,” Father Teresito Soganub said when he first visited the Bato mosque where he and a hundred hostages were held by Daesh-Maute gunmen during the siege of Marawi City.
For four harrowing months, Soganub and the hostages cowered in fear in the basement of the mosque as the militants put up a fierce resistance to defend it and another building that served as their command center.
“We saw them bringing their wounded here. As the fighting got fiercer, I felt death here,” the 57-year-old priest said.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi liberated a year ago following a five-month siege led by Isnilon Hapilon, the local head of the Islamic State who led fighters from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Middle Eastern countries in taking over this Islamic lakeshore city of over 200,000 inhabitants.
Transferring to another site in Marawi, Soganub excitedly showed reporters where the gunmen forcefully videoed him making an appeal to Duterte to stop the military offensive to spare the lives of the hostages on May 30, 2017.
“Mr President, I was taken as a prisoner of war,” he narrated the appeal by memory.
Maute gunmen abducted Soganub and dozens of other civilians when they attacked Marawi, where he had served as parish priest of St. Mary’s Cathedral and vicar general of the prelature.
The priest said he is undergoing psychological help to relieve him of the trauma.
He said the scenes of his days in captivity would always flash back at night when he goes to bed to sleep.
“But I know I have to turn these nightmares into good memories so I can still serve the people in Lanao,” he said.
He said for 117 days, he was fearful that he and the other hostages would die from the bombs dropped by Philippine Air Force planes.
In September last year, military officials said Soganub scampered away from his captors as government troops clashed with members of the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups who were holed up in the mosque.
The military said then that amid the confusion, Soganub escaped with another male hostage and was picked up by soldiers who took him to safety.
The priest now heads Pakigdait (sharing), a nongovernment organization that helps foster better relations between Muslims and Christians in the two Lanao provinces. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)