Marawi siege: Muslim boss hides Christian workers from Islamist militants

Three Christian employees had a chance to escape the besieged city of Marawi in southern Philippines on June 13 after their Muslim boss hid them in his basement and turned away Islamist militants who came knocking on his door to kill non-Muslims.

(REUTERS / Neil Jerome Morales)An evacuated student show her drawing about what she and other Marawi residents experienced before fleeing the city still under siege during a school day at Pantar elementary school in Lanao Del Norte, Philippines June 6, 2017.

Speaking to The New York Times in an interview, 25-year-old house painter Ian Torres from nearby Iligan City said he heard militants inspired by the Islamic State going from house to house to look for and kill non-Muslims. Torres, who only came to Marawi city for a house painting job, said they heard gunfire when the people they asked were unable to answer questions about verses in the Quran.

Nick Andilig, 26, one of five laborers from Iligan, recalled how their Muslim boss hid them in the basement. He heard his employer arguing with the militants and telling them that there were no Christians inside. The Islamist fighters eventually left and went to the next house, and Andilig said they heard gunfire after that.

"Our employer escaped earlier with another household staff," Andilig added. "He said he would come back for us but never made it. He was a good Muslim."

There was another man and a pregnant woman trapped with Andilig in their Muslim employer's house at that time. They survived on the food that the owner left, but started venturing outside when their canned goods and rice ran out.

As the explosions and military strikes started getting louder, Andilig said they decided to escape, but their heavily pregnant companion and her husband opted to stay because she could not run with them. They promised to send rescue for the couple if they successfully escaped, and committed their fate to God.

Andilig, Torres, and 22-year-old Arman Langilan fled at dawn on June 13, hiding and running in the vegetation until they reached the Agos River. They jumped into the water and made it to the other side despite the snipers firing at them, and they were later found by police. As for the couple they left behind, their situation is still unknown.

Meanwhile, a number of refugees from Marawi City have died in overcrowded evacuation centers because of the lack of sanitation and potable water. Lanao del Sur province's health director Alinader Minalang said 300 of the almost 40,000 people in emergency shelters have suffered from diarrhea, Reuters reported.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law across the island of Mindanao on May 23 when the ISIS-inspired militants attacked Marawi City. The military said 257 Islamist fighters, 62 soldiers, and 26 civilians have died in the clashes so far, and there are still hundreds who have not yet been accounted for.