Soldier held captive by Sayyaf is TOPS awardee

By Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 17 2014 03:19 AM | Updated as of Jun 17 2014 11:19 AM

The thought came to mind when Navy Commissary Steward 2nd Class Felix Guaves was captured by Abu Sayyaf militants in Sulu in 2000.

“I thought it was my end. I prayed to almost all of the saints that time,” Guaves, one of the winners of this year’s The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) award given by the Metrobank Foundation, said in an interview yesterday.

“That time, my eldest child was just two months old,” he added.

Guaves was captured on Oct. 7, 2000 while he and two other soldiers were moving out of the swampy Mt. Punungan in Jolo, where an Abu Sayyaf lair is located.

“We acted as observers. It was around noon when we were asked by the troops to move out of the hill immediately because they will bomb it,” he said.

Guaves was shocked when an Abu Sayyaf member pointed a cal. 45 pistol at him – the start of what would be the five longest hours of his life.

He and his captors walked about 50 meters until they reached an area where the terrorists hid four boats.

“I considered escaping while we were on board the boat but I thought I might be able to evade one of the boats but not the other three because they will fire at me,” he said.

After alighting from the boat, Guaves and his captors continued walking until around 5 p.m. when two Army helicopters arrived, causing confusion among the terrorists.

“I thought it was the opportunity for me to escape. I picked up my gun, an M60, I carried it, ran and then there was firing of shots,” he said. “They could not catch up with me because it was the fastest run in my entire life.”

During his captivity, Guaves endured punches, kicks and other forms of physical abuse but he managed to hold on, thanks to his Navy SEAL training.

“They were complacent. They thought I was an ordinary Navy soldier,” he said.

Guaves’ capture proved to be a blessing in disguise for the military as it gave the operating troops information about the Abu Sayyaf’s positions, strength, weaknesses and equipment. His daring escape also led to the amending of the manual on war for all aspiring SEAL operators.