MARAWI CITY (EXCLUSIVE)- A man held hostage by Maute extremists here escaped beheading not once, but twice.
Romy, not his real name, said he and 17 others were held captive for three days with no food or water in Mapandi and were used as "human shields."
"Tatlong araw kami na-preso, na-hostage. Hindi kami pinakain. Sabi nung isa, 'pinakain na ba mga hostage?' tapos sabi 'Bakit mo sila pakainin, patayin din!'," said Romy, who asked not to use his real name for security reasons.
But Romy said four civilians- a Maranao and three from the Visayas- were beheaded in captivity.
He said the Mautes even showed him the decapitated head of the Maranao victim and warned him and other hostages.
"Maranao ito. Kayo pa kaya, Bisaya kayo," Romy recalled the terrorists warning him and the other hostages.
Romy then detailed how he managed to escape two beheading attempts by the terrorists.
Every day, Romy said, the extremists would behead three civilians. On the day he was lined up next, the military launched an air strike, halting the terrorists' plan to kill him.
"Swerte kami, scheduled na pugutan kami [ng] ulo, dumating 'yung helicopter, nagbomba. Sabi [ng mga Maute] 'Ipasok sila ulit! Ipasok sila ulit!" he said.
The following day, Romy said he and two others were handcuffed for the beheading. He already saw the long knife that would be used to end his life when fresh air strikes again stopped the killings.
"Dumating na ulit helicopter, bomba ulit, 'Pasok sila ulit! Pasok ulit!' [the terrorists said]. Takbuhan sila!" Romy said.
It was at that time when Romy and the rest of the hostages were able to flee. They jumped into the river and swam towards the safe zone.
Sadly, not everyone survived.
"Lahat kami nakatakas, dito kami tumalon sa tubig pero namatay kasama namin. Namatay, 'di marunong lumangoy. Wala pang kain kaya mahina na," he said.
As the Marawi siege rages on, the battle continues with fresh air strikes and the sound of gunshots inside the warzone.
The military has allayed fears that the firefight would last longer, saying terrorist forces were slowly losing ground.
"Enemy resistance continues to wane as government forces pressed its advance," said Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson.
As of 6 p.m. Thursday, government placed the death toll in Marawi City at 375, among them 280 terror suspects, 69 government troops and 26 civilians.
Clashes between government troops and the Islamic State-linked Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups erupted on May 23, prompting more than 200,000 residents to flee.
Hundreds are still believed to be trapped in the conflict zone.