Wednesday, 15 July 2009

I love the Filipino people - Vagni

Mayen Jaymalin
Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the nightmare he had gone through, freed Italian Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni yesterday said he is still willing to return to the country.

“If they ask me, why not? I love the Filipino people,” Vagni said.

The 62-year-old engineer said he has already forgiven his abductors and called on them to go back to society and lead normal lives.

“You have kept me for six months and now I am free and alive. Now it’s time to think of normal life,” Vagni said.

He admitted though that there were times that he felt his life was in danger, but remembering that his wife and children are waiting for him kept him going.

“I meditate, think of the good times and my family. Hope to be free one day,” he said when asked what were the things he did as a captive in Sulu jungle.

While in captivity, Vagni said he lived like his abductors, slept without a bed and ate only fish and vegetables. He lost 20 kilos since his abduction last January.

He said his captors spoke to him only a few times because many of them do not speak English.

When told by his abductors that he would be released anytime, Vagni said he initially doubted it.

“They have told me that I am free for the past months so when they informed me I said sorry but I don’t believe you,” he said.

Vagni said he has not yet decided what to do next.

“After six months in captivity, I have lost something about myself that I have to get back. I have to find myself before deciding what to do,” he said.

Courtesy call

Looking gaunt but renewed, he was escorted to the Palace for a meeting with President Arroyo by Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Reubens Fedele, Sen. Richard Gordon, Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga and Task Force Comet head Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban.

Vagni met and thanked the President for the government’s efforts to secure his release.

The President welcomed him with a warm smile. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro joined Mrs. Arroyo in welcoming Vagni at Malacañang’s Music Room.

“Good to have you back. Welcome,” she told Vagni, the last of three ICRC workers taken captive by the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu last January.

Ermita said Vagni related to Mrs. Arroyo how life with the bandits was, including his feeling of hopelessness as well as his many prayers that were eventually answered.

He said Vagni will fly back to Italy then to the International Committee of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“He will do some thinking back home,” Ermita said.

Life without football

Later at a press conference, Vagni related how he was actually deprived of daily life, love and news from home – including one item that stunned him Tuesday: his football team didn’t make it to the European Champions’ League.

“Oh, no, no, no,” the newly-freed ICRC volunteer said at a news conference.

Freshly shaved and in a brown suit, Vagni recalled how he dodged gunbattles between his captors and government troops, survived on scant meals of fish and rice, and longed for home near Florence with his Thai wife and daughter.

He appeared calm and composed, until the talk turned to football.

A journalist remarked that Florence’s team, Fiorentina, has emerged champion. It was a joke – Fiorentina actually finished fourth in Italy’s Serie A and so failed to win an automatic place in the European Champions’ League, a coveted event among legions of Italian sports fans.

For the first time, Vagni seemed to be riveted. “Yeah?” he asked. “Now please tell me because I don’t know. I missed it for six months.”

Fedele, who sat beside him, cut in. “Please don’t say these things to a Florentino,” Fedele said, smiling.

“If he finds out it is not true, he can have a very bad reaction afterward,” the ambassador said in jest, then gave Vagni the real news and drawing the aid worker’s anguished response. – Paolo Romero, AP


  1. I like Filipino people especially Cebuana girls

  2. Pinoys are racists2:53 am, July 16, 2009

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. He is so nice...after all he's been through, his love for The Philippines and the Filipino people did not change..I hope that he's now doing good and has a normal life.