Angelo, Arsenia cry in emotional reunion

'A new life'

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz cried and hugged his wife and brother Wednesday in an emotion-packed reunion in the United Arab Emirates, a day after he was freed by Iraqi militants.

"I feel like I've been given a new life," a tired-looking De la Cruz told reporters, holding tightly to his wife's hand.

De la Cruz had been flown from Iraq on an emirates air force plane to a military base just outside the emirates capital Abu Dhabi.

At about the same time his flight landed, a commercial plane carrying his wife, Arsenia, and his brother landed at the Abu Dhabi civilian airport.

The three then met at an Abu Dhabi hotel, running to each other and hugging tightly, tears streaming down their faces.

De la Cruz had been dropped off in front of the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, freed after the Philippines gave in to militants' demands to withdraw its small contingent of troops from Iraq to prevent the beheading of the 46-year-old father of eight.

De la Cruz was to have a medical checkup in Abu Dhabi before he, his wife and brother returned to the Philippines. It was not immediately clear when the three would be leaving the emirates.

Arsenia told reporters at the airport she felt no hatred toward her husband's kidnappers and was only thankful they had not harmed him and had released him.

She nodded when asked if she stood by her earlier comments that she would never let her husband return to the Middle East.

"I really thought my time had come," De la Cruz was quoted as saying in a wire report from Baghdad.

The wire report had said that, at one point, his captors had shown him a sword, sharpened it before him and probed his neck, looking for the place where to cut him.

So unreal the entire hostage-taking ordeal must have seemed to the 46-year-old truck driver and his family that his wife Arsenia didn't even realize it was he on the other end of the line when he called her from Baghdad soon after he was freed.

"Sino po sila (Who is this, please)?" were the first words Arsenia uttered when she took the call in Amman, Jordan, where she had been staying for days, waiting for news about him.

According to Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, Arsenia apparently thought she was talking to a member of "Team Iraq," which was in charge of the negotiations with the Iraqi militants holding De la Cruz.

It was when she realized it was he that the tears came down.


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