Escaped hostage tells of Omar Maute’s fruit salad days
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Terrorist leader Omar Maute is a big fan of fruit salad and would order his hostages in Marawi City to prepare a cup of it every day from canned fruits stolen from stores.
“He loves fruit salad. He kept on asking us to prepare fruit salad,” said Rumar Marjalino, one of four hostages who escaped the extremists two weeks ago.
The 38-year-old Rumar said they would prepare the dessert only for Omar using canned fruits ransacked from grocery stores when the Maute group attacked the city on May 23.
“We [would] prepare only a small amount of fruit cocktail for him and add condensed milk,” Rumar said, adding that Omar would go to the kitchen every day to personally get his fruit salad.
“He talked to us everyday but I didn’t care look at him. He has fierce eyes,” he added.
Rumar said Omar was unlike his brother Abdullah Maute, another leader of the bandit group that turned to religious jihad.
Abdullah was reclusive and “didn’t mingle with the civilian hostages,” said Rumar, who used to deliver food every day to the Maute brothers as well as Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.
‘A very quiet man’
Rumar described Hapilon “as a very quiet man” who listens to suggestions from his men, including some “foreigners” who spoke what sounded to them like Arabic.
Rumar said they also learned that most of the fighters inside the war zone were not from the Lanao area but from Western Mindanao, including Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu.
“I have met a number of them, (I have) spoken to them,” he said.
Rumar’s account belied earlier reports that Omar Maute was killed in the fighting last June and Hapilon had already fled the area.
Rumar said the last time he saw Omar was a few hours before he, his brother Rowell and two other companions decided to escape while the extremists were praying on Aug. 4.
When they escaped, he said Catholic priest Teresito Suganob was also alive with at least 40 other civilians who were seized at the start of the fighting in May.
Suganob and his fellow captors were being given various tasks by their captors, Rumar said.
Some of the hostages, he said, were even given firearms and ordered to fire at government troops closing in on their position.
“They brought 14 men to the battlefront one day and ordered them to shoot at the military tanks. They were killed by our own soldiers believing they were Maute [group members],” he said.
“The others who refused to fire at the tanks were shot by the Isis on the spot,” he added.
The Marjalino brothers and their two companions were carpenters building a house in Marawi when the fighting broke out. They hid themselves for 11 days but were later captured.
Rumar said the Maute group stored in their base plenty of food that were looted from grocery stores when they attacked the city.
“They used male civilians who were unable to carry firearms to carry the loot for them. We had such food as instant noodles, rice and sardines,” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.