MANILA - An unfamiliar voice over the phone. This is what it took Jaime Mayormita, a retired policeman, to learn that his wife was among 15 people whom terrorists snatched off a church in Marawi City.
In a phone interview with radio DZMM Wednesday, Mayormita shared that he was at the police headquarters when suspected Maute bandits torched several buildings and battled state forces.
As gunshots clattered throughout the town, Mayormita said he exchanged calls and text messages with his 45-year-old wife, Wendelyn, who was then at St. Mary's Cathedral, preparing food for an upcoming feast day of the Blessed Virgin.
Mayormita said he continued receiving updates of his wife's condition -- until a different person answered his calls with demands for state troops to halt offensives against terrorists.
"Panay ang text namin, panay ang tawag namin para ma-monitor ang isa't isa, malayo kasi kami. Nalaman ko na tinangay siya nang iba na ang sumasagot sa cellphone," Mayormita said.
"Hinihingi nila na sana hindi makalapit ang military."
But as the government forces pressed on, the extremists torched the cathedral and fled, taking Wendelyn along with parish priest Fr. Chito Suganob, 2 working students and about a dozen other parishioners, said Mayormita.
Mayormita can no longer reach Wendelyn's phone and has since lost information on her whereabouts.
"Sana pakawalan na nila, makalaya ang mga inosenteng tao kagaya na lang ni Fr. Chito at iyung asawa ko saka mga kasamahan nila -- mga inosente kasi ito," the retired policeman urged his wife's captors.
Wendelyn, he added, suffers a heart ailment and did not have her medicine during the abduction.
In Marawi City, military troops were pursuing bandits from Maute group while on a mission to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the suspected leader of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia. The terror group has taken hostages and are reportedly taking over some government establishments. President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night declared martial law in Mindanao and cut short his Russian trip.