Pinay seized in Sabah reunited with family

By John Unson, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 08 2014 08:43 AM | Updated as of Jun 08 2014 04:43 PM

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines – A Filipina overseas worker seized along with a Chinese tourist in a resort in Sabah, Malaysia in April has been reunited with her family in a remote village in Midsayap town here.

Mercelita Tamalla, 40, said she has no intention of returning to work at the Singamata Adventures Reefs and Resort from she and Gao Hua Yuan, were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants.

“I’d like to thank the Malaysian government for helping facilitate my return to the Philippines,” Tamalla told journalists as she arrived home in Bual District at around 7 p.m. Friday from Manila.

Tamalla said she and the Chinese tourist were kidnapped by seven Abu Sayyaf bandits, who took them to Sulu where they were held captive for almost two months.

“They kept telling us they wanted money in exchange for our release. I told them I am just an ordinary resort worker, but they would not listen,” Tamalla said.

She said one of the kidnappers told her that they thought she was a companion of Gao, so they also took her.

The kidnappers first asked for P500 million from Tamalla and Gao’s family. The demand was later reduced to P50 million as their captivity prolonged.

“I felt I would eventually end up executed by our captors as my family has no money to pay for the ransom,” Tamalla said.

She said their captors were led by a guerrilla named Alhabsi Misaya, an ethnic Tausog.

It was Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak who first announced in Malaysia that Gao and Tamalla were both rescued in a joint operation of Malaysian and Philippine security forces.

Tamalla said Gao celebrated her 29th birthday while in captivity.