SANDAKAN: The ability to recite verses from the Quran flawlessly saved Watmo Wijaya, 30, from becoming a hostage of Filipino gunmen who kidnapped three of his colleagues.
It was frightening. In all my nervousness, I held out my hands in prayer and recited the Syahadat verses clearly and loudly. If not I would have been taken, said the first officer of tugboat Bonggaya 91.
The father of a two-year-old daughter from Central Java, said his chief engineer Beny Butar Butar, 49, assistant engineer Rochimen Yuwana, 34, and seaman Arianto Arsad, 28, also escaped by reciting the verses.
However, skipper Resmadi, 32, and seamen Erikson Hutagaol, 23, and Yasmin Labuso, 26, were not so fortunate.
When the gunmen could not hear them recite the verses loudly, they were ordered to remain on the speedboat.
They had also recited the verses. I think their voices were drowned out by the waves and winds as they were scared, said Watmo.
The Bonggaya crew's 20 minutes of terror near Pulau Mataking in the Sulawesi Sea began at 10.20am on Wednesday.
I was sleeping in my cabin when I heard the gunshots, said Arianto, adding that the captain and the others were on deck.
Watmo said that immediately after the gunshots, four armed men scrambled aboard while a lone gunman stayed on board the 6m speedboat.
We were asked if we were Muslims, said Arianto who like Watmo was ordered back to the tugboat after having recited the Quran verses.
The gunmen then fired three shots in the air before fleeing with Resmaidi, Erikson and Yasmin towards southern Philippines after taking mobile phones, wristwatches and a VHF communication set from the tugboat crew.
However, one handphone went unnoticed by the gunmen, and one of the crewmen managed to SMS the tugboat owner here.
The owner Syarikat Pengangkutan Bonggaya Sdn Bhd immediately alerted the police about the abductions.
The tugboat arrived back here at 8.30am yesterday and police interviewed the crewmen.
The four crew members who returned safely hoped their kidnapped colleagues would be released unharmed.