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What's it like to be a hostage?

Christian victim recounts his ordeal in recent Zamboanga clash

What's it like to be a hostage?

Two hostages led to safety during last month's fighting in Zamboanga. Picture: Al Jazeera

Jamela Alindogan for Al Jazeera

October 29, 2013

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When I visited Juan Santander Morte in his home, he was playing solitaire.

"This is a game of chance," he says. "It takes my mind off things."

He is one of the survivors of the deadly Zamboanga siege by alleged fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

He showed me a video of him tied up with a rope and used as a human shield by MNLF fighters.

Hit by a shrapnel on the head and back, he says the videos of the Philippine military allegedly shooting at hostages waving the white flag are not fabricated.

I asked him how he feels every time he sees the video. He doesn't blame anyone, not the Philippine military. Everybody is a "collateral damage" of war, he told me.

To accept Santander's current disposition, one must first understand his past.

He grew up in the midst of war.

Once a member of the civilian auxiliary force in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, he fought against the MNLF during its struggle for independence in the 1960s.

But 45 years on, he faced them again. This time, as their hostage.

Subjected to their will, he felt powerless.

MNLF fighters in combat uniforms and firearms came knocking at Santander's door on September 9.


He didn't answer.

"Christian or Muslim?" the fighter asked.

Christian, he answered.

"Then you better come with me."

Santander finally managed to escape when fighting broke out in one of the villages where he was holed up.

He says civilians were caught in the crossfire.

But curiously enough, he feels no hate towards the MNLF fighters who took him hostage.

"We are all victims of circumstance, Jamela. For what good will hate bring me? So best to just accept it. This is Zamboanga - I was born here. We are used to armed conflict."

Full Story: Philippine conflict's 'collateral damage' 

Source: Al Jazeera


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