Angelo, Arsenia cry in emotional reunion

'Don't cry'

Asked what her husband's first words were, Arsenia said he told her not to cry because soon they would be together again.

"Huwag ka ng umiyak (Don't cry)," he said. "Manalangin tayo, magkikita na tayo. Magpasalamat tayo sa Panginoon (Let's pray, we will be seeing each other again soon. Let us thank the Lord)," Arsenia said, recounting what her husband told her as they spoke in Kapampangan.

De la Cruz called his wife around 1:30 p.m. (Jordan time) on Tuesday after he spoke on the phone with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. On Wednesday, he left Baghdad while she flew out of Amman for their Abu Dhabi rendezvous.

Sto. Tomas, who has been caring for Arsenia, said that she expected the tests to be finished Thursday and they would get bookings to fly to Manila either on Friday or Saturday, "at the earliest."

Arsenia told the Inquirer she would not want her husband to work abroad again.

"It's better for him to just work there (in the Philippines), maybe as a driver of 'ma'm' (Sto. Tomas) or the President," Arsenia said, half in jest.

De la Cruz's captors -- identified as the Iraqi Islamic Army-Khaled bin Al-Waleed Corps -- after a military leader during the Islamic conquests in the 7th century AD, had threatened to behead him unless the Philippine contingent was withdrawn from Iraq.

At one point, the insurgents told him he had been brought to the place where he would be killed.

Nightmare begins

His fate changed dramatically when his captors learned that Filipino troops would withdraw from Iraq and agreed to let him go, according to statements De la Cruz gave to Philippine officials and friends after he was released.

The officials and others spoke to the media on condition of anonymity. De la Cruz has publicly said he was treated well during his terror-filled two-week captivity.

"They did not harm me and I'm relieved that I survived," he said.

Cruz's nightmare began on July 4 when Iraqi insurgents attacked the convoy of fuel trucks he was traveling in after it had crossed into Iraq from Saudi Arabia. The 10 other Filipino drivers were rescued, officials said.

De la Cruz, constantly guarded by six young insurgents clutching AK-47s and grenade launchers, was bound and stashed in the trunk of a car while being moved to at least four houses, the AP said.

From one house, De la Cruz heard frequent rumbling from tanks and the drone of fighter jets overheard.

He did not see other captives, but was once detained in a room with dried bloodstains that appeared to have squirted on the floor, an official said. De la Cruz once thought of escaping but changed his mind after realizing he would just be lost.

"He had many sleepless nights," the official said. "He was always preoccupied with his potential execution and wondered if that would be done with the use of a sword or a gun. He hoped it would be the latter because it seemed much less painful."

In one of the most critical moments, a kidnapper embraced him, saying: "I love you, I love you but I have to do this," the official was quoted as saying.


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