MANILA, Philippines – Following his escape, Filipino guide and photographer Ivan Sarenas will be staying in Tawi-Tawi for “at least a week” to monitor government efforts to free his 2 foreign colleagues who are still in the hands of their abuctors.
Sarenas, 32, jumped out of the motorized pump boat where he, along with fellow hostages – Dutch Ewold Horn, 52, and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47 – were made to board as their abductors tried to bring them to an unknown location.
The group was cruising the seas off Languyan town afternoon of Wednesday, February 1, when Sarenas said he decided to jump. It was hours after they were seized while birdwatching in adjacent Panglima Sugala municipality.
“We offered him breakfast and he seems to be fine,” according to Sr Supt Rodelio Jocson, Tawi Tawi police director told Rappler. “Mr Sarenas however will still be subjected to a medical check even if he did not have visible injuries in his body.”
The police official fetched Sarenas in Languyan town early dawn of Thursday, February 2, after the freed hostage sought protection from local residents following his escape.
“Apparently, the pump boat was traveling in a slow speed so when he saw his chance, Mr Sarenas just leaped to his freedom,” Jocson said. “He was just fortunate, he was not shot by their abductors.”
According to Jocson, it is likely that the kidnappers refrained from shooting Sarenas for fear that the gunshots would draw attention from police and military units patrolling the area.
Tawi-Tawi Vice Gov. Ruby Sahali said that Sarenas managed to seek help from fishermen in the area, by swimming “at least a kilometer” in open sea. Local residents of Barangay Tuhog-Tuhog tipped the authorities about Sarenas’ presence, prompting the police to deploy a team in the area.
Alain Pascua, vice president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, spoke to Sarenas by phone and said that the freed victim has opted to stay in Tawi-Tawi to “monitor the developments” and “help in the operations” to free the two foreigners.
“Personally, we want him to be back in Manila the soonest,” Pascua said. “But knowing Ivan, he feels responsible for his colleagues so he would stay for at least a week, or maybe until the hostages are freed.”
Sahali said that Sarenas has been frequenting Tawi-Tawi “for a number of years now,” bringing along birdwatchers, mostly foreigners.
“Apparently, since he was very familiar with the province, he chose not to coordinate with local officials for their security,” Sahali said. A policeman in plainclothes however accompanied the group of Sarenas during their 2-week stay in Panglima Sugala, but he was unarmed, supposedly upon the request of the tourists, according to Sahali.
“We have always requested tourists, especially the foreign citizens, to register with us, so we can provide them with information on their security,” Sahali said.
Sahali said that police and military units have been deployed in Languyan town to pursue the suspects and their captives, who reportedly fled on foot in the area, after burning their pump boat.
Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahali will reportedly send emissaries to Languyan, in a bid to convince the captors to free the hostages unharmed. – Rappler.com