It was sweet freedom for the five Filipino sailors after a four-and-a- half years of ordeal in war-torn Somalia.
The short hop from Somalia to Nairobi, Kenya gave assurance to the five Filipinos that they were about to go home and reunite with their respective families back in the Philippines. They teared up and hugged each other upon reaching Kenya.
The five Filipino crew of ‘Naham 3’ were freed in Galkayo, Somalia along with 21 other seafarers after being held hostage by Somali pirates for nearly five years. The Filipino sailors are scheduled to return home on October 28, according to the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs.
A Somali pirate identified as Bile Hussein claimed the sailors were freed after a $1.5-million ransom was paid.
The release of the 26 Asian sailors represents the end of captivity for the last remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jesus Yabes and other officers of the Philippine Embassy in Nairobi already met the five Filipino sailors. They will undergo medical test and psychological debriefing before they travel back to the Philippines.
The crew of the Omani-flagged fishing vessel Naham 3 were taken captive in March 2012 south of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) said there were a total of 29 crew members who were initially taken as hostages. One of them died during the hijacking while two others have died while in captivity after getting sick.
While in captivity, the five Filipinos ate rats to survive since there is nothing much to eat in Somalia.
Arnel Balbero, one of the five Filipino sailors, said they had little food and water and ate rats just to survive. “You don’t say, ‘I don’t like that.’ No. You just eat. We eat rat. We cook it,” said Balbero.
Among the freed Asian sailors include those from China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan.