MANILA - With Maute terrorists on his tail, a construction worker swam for days and survived on water lilies from a river in Marawi City before soldiers rescued him Sunday.
Jun Abapo, 45, said he and 2 co-workers had been trapped in Marawi's Pandi area since the fighting between terrorists and state forces broke out last May 23.
They saw an opportunity to escape from the battle zone last week and swam in a nearby lake.
For the next 5 days, Abapo said he and his companions trod the lake and ate water lilies, which they also used as makeshift floats.
Maute fighters however spotted the group and opened fire at them, forcing the civilians to go separate ways.
Abapo said he saw one of his companions get hit by rebel fire.
The Army's 1st Infantry Battallion eventually rescued Abapo when he reached the Raja Madaya Bridge in Barangay Bubong, Sunday.
Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Marawi, said suspected terrorists continued to fire at Abapo during his rescue.
"Hindi kami nakipagputukan kasi kung gagawin namin iyun, baka ma-compromise ang position namin and the moment na ma-compromise, hindi na namin ma-save si kuya," added 1st Infantry Battalion 1st Lt. Yvonne Altamera.
The military, Herrera said, has no information yet on Abapo's companions, as of this posting.
As of Sunday, 379 terrorists, 89 government troops, and 39 civilians have been killed in the nearly 2-month long battle.
More than 300,000 residents meanwhile have fled Marawi City and nearby areas due to the firefights. Some 300 civilians remain trapped in the conflict zone.
-- With a report from Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News