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Captured Marawi priest returns to Mindanao

Father Teresito Soganub tells gathering about nightmare experience of being hostage of Muslim militants
Captured Marawi priest returns to Mindanao

Father Teresito Soganub, vicar-general of the Prelature of Marawi, is welcomed by the people of Norala in the southern Philippine province of South Cotabato, in Mindanao. (Photo by Bong Sarmiento)

 

A Filipino priest held captive by Islamic militants has returned to Mindanao for the first time since his rescue from the besieged city of Marawi in September.

Father Teresito Soganub, vicar-general of the Prelature of Marawi, appeared in high spirits as he arrived in the southern Philippine town of Norala in South Cotabato province.

Clad in black, the priest waved to bystanders as headed in a motorcade to the town’s gymnasium where he addressed an estimated 500 students and government officials.

The priest told of his time in the hands of his abductors, saying that his faith in God made him survive the ordeal.

"Have faith in God and you’ll not be forsaken," Father Soganub told his audience, describing his 116-day captivity in the hands of Islamic State-inspired gunmen as "a nightmare."

"Yes I was angry with God for putting me in such a horrible situation. However, my faith in the Lord did not waiver. In fact it even became deeper," said the priest.

"I prayed more feverishly than I used to do with death staring us straight on the face. Anytime, a bomb or a bullet could hit anyone of us with the fierce fighting between the two sides," he added.

The priest said he and another male captive escaped under cover of darkness while their captors slept and were found by government troops on Sept. 17.

He said the gunmen forced the hostages to pray three times a day while in captivity and "treated [the captives] well."

Gunmen claiming allegiance to the so-called Islamic State snatched the priest and five church workers from Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi during the first day of the attack.

The Philippine military later claimed the gunmen took more than 200 people hostage.

President Rodrigo Duterte later declared martial law across Mindanao, which was later extended until Dec. 31.

On Oct. 23, the military ended operations in Marawi exactly five months after the attack that affected about 400,000 people and killed at least 1,100, mostly militants.

Asked if he would be return to Marawi, Father Soganub said he would not be going back to his "regular ministry."

The priest served 23 years in the Prelature of Marawi as vicar general and Catholic chaplain of Mindanao State University.

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