MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Embassy in South Korea reported that a kidnap victim of the known terrorist group Abu Sayyaf was unexpectedly reunited with his rescuer at a dinner for Filipino professors and students held in the Philippine Embassy in Seoul on November 27.
Special Envoy Roy Cimatu, a former army general, and Mario Rebosura, Jr. were reunited that evening, during the dinner for Filipino professors and students hosted by Senator Edgardo Angara, who was also in South Korea as a keynote speaker for the Philippines-Korea Economic Forum on Multi-Industry Clusters held on November 25.
Rebosura is a Filipino scholar studying in South Korea, while Cimatu is in South Korea with a team from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to evaluate the security situation in South Korea and assess the level of awareness and preparedness of the 50,000-strong Filipino community there.
The Filipino scholar was only 10 years old when a Father’s Day celebration in Mindanao turned into a tragedy.
In recounting his tragic story, Rebosura narrated that the incident happened at a beach resort in Glan town in Sarangani province in 1997. Four people, including him and a Japanese national, were abducted by six suspected Abu Sayyaf militants.
Rebosura’s father was killed by the kidnappers when he tried to resist them while the four kidnap victims were forced onto a boat as hostages and used as shield against a rescue operation launched by Philippine troops.
“I was kidnapped, taken as one of the hostages,” he said.
The getaway boat’s engine fortunately failed after a kilometer’s travel towards an Abu Sayyaf lair and the boat eventually washed ashore.
Rescuers clashed with militants resulting in the deaths of two of the kidnappers, including the Abu Sayyaf leader. The surviving hostage-takers ran away with their captives and later abandoned them.
“We heard voices of people passing by. Noong wala na ang mga hostage-takers, sinundan namin ang direksyon ng boses,” Rebosura narrated.
“We found a road, then some people and a house,” he recounted, adding that they were eventually able to meet the persons responsible for their safe rescue, in particular an army colonel who he met for the first and last time in Mindanao on 16 June 1997.
The army colonel was none other than Cimatu.
Rebosura immediately recognized Cimatu when he was introduced to the crowd of about 100. “I know his face,” he stated.
He approached Cimatu, who also remembered the then 10-year old boy from the 1997 rescue mission, and an unexpected reunion between the kidnap victim and rescuer took place with a curious crowd bursting into applause.
A Chemical Engineering graduate from UP Los Banos in 2009, Rebosura is now a graduate scholar on his third month at the Catholic University of Korea.