Slight touch jolts kidnap victim Mary Jean

MANILA, Philippines—A slight touch on her arms jolts her. She can’t stay in one place for a long time and changes her seat from one chair to another. She always looks at her back, as if expecting something to happen.

This was Mary Jean Lacaba’s demeanor when she was reunited with her family and flown to Manila Friday, a day after she was freed by the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers, according to Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) volunteer worker Corazon Dacong.

“She’s still afraid,” Dacong quoted Mary Jean’s husband Manny.

Dacong wanted to speak to Mary Jean as part of her duties as media relations and case documentation officer.

“One day I will share my story, but not at once, not this time,” Mary Jean told Dacong.

Dacong recalled that when Mary Jean saw her husband and son Christian, they hugged and kissed each other but there were few words exchanged.

While Mary Jean now gives a ready smile to everyone, she gets easily startled, said Dacong. Whenever she does something, she also asks for permission, the PNRC worker said, attributing this to her experience as a hostage.

On the plane to Manila, Mary Jean broke into smile, cried and embraced her husband on hearing Sulu Vice Gov. Nur-Ana Sahidulla recount the Abu Sayyaf threat to execute one of the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hostages. Sahidulla negotiated the release of Lacaba.

Dacong said that while Mary Jean was not yet ready to tell her full story, she was able to narrate how she and the two other hostages treated wounded Abu Sayyaf Group members when fighting broke out between the kidnappers and the military two weeks ago.

She recounted that she saw many dead bodies on both sides, her voice suddenly turning low and she appeared sad and frightened, Dacong said.

Mary Jean also repeatedly mentioned the demand of the Abu Sayyaf leader, Albader Parad, for the military to stop its offensive, saying this would be in the best interest of her ICRC colleagues and would ensure their survival.

“She worries about the two and hopes that the military would ease operations so their lives would not be put at risk,” Dacong said.

Lacaba and her family are at an undisclosed place in Metro Manila mainly while she undergoes stress and trauma debriefing.

She had been offered a vacation in Subic, but said this can wait. She just wants to go back home to Davao.

Arlyn dela Cruz, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on April 7, 2009 at 2:37 am  Comments Off on Slight touch jolts kidnap victim Mary Jean  
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