Story: The 1981
MAJO MURGA MORTENSEN
Twenty years ago on Feb. 8, 1981, Majo, then 10 years old, and his
Ramon ("Nonoy") Murga, 26, were kidnapped by Muslim bandits posing as
rebels while picnicking with family friends at the Murga beach house in
Pitogo, a quiet barrio some 7 kilometers from the city proper of
In his own words and writing, Majo, told us a chilling account of what
really happened that day (click
here to view our May 1987 issue) when he was 16. Now, we are
his story in memory of his uncle, Ramon ("Nonoy") Murga.
Before I write this article I'd like to say three things. There was a
entitled "Nonoy & The Rebels" which was written by Willie
Well, Marquez has said a lot of lies in his book and has not fully got
the true facts from me. Rather he made them up himself. Secondly, I'm
to the editor and readers [of L.A. Zamboanga Times] for not writing so
soon. Lastly, but not least, I'd like to say that the time my uncle
was May 9, 1981 and would like to write this article for him.
con tigo este Nonoy!"
was a fine Sunday morning, February 8, 1981. Nonoy went in the front
with his Toyota Tamaraw. At that moment it was about to be my turn to
piano lessons. Nonoy came up to me and asked me if I could go with him
and his friends to the family beach house in Pitogo.
Without much delay, I jumped into the Tamaraw without even telling my
At the beach, we went swimming for about 3 hours until it was time to
lunch. Everybody rushed out of the water towards the house.
Nonoy and I were preparing to cook at the back of the house. And as we
started to make fire, Nonoy's friends went into the house. We did not
that there were 5 men moving towards our direction inside the
As I looked up, I saw 5 men armed with .45 caliber pistols. Then one of
them said, "kidnappers!" with a Muslim accent and pointed his gun to
head. One of them grabbed me and another grabbed Nonoy. As we were
towards a waiting pumpboat in the beach, Nonoy's friends and my uncles
Pietro and Toto, saw us with the men running hurriedly. Upon boarding
boat, the two of them ran out of the house to see where we were heading.
L. SHINN / LAZT
the back of the Murga beach house in Pitogo. The arrow shows where
and Nonoy were taken at gunpoint by five armed kidnappers.
After two hours, we landed on the far side of Basilan province. There
were introduced to other rebels of the MNLF (although I knew they were
not rebels, but pirates of the military using the MNLF as an excuse).
their camp there about 50 to 60 followers, men, women and children. We
were then led to a nipa hut. There the commander introduced himself as
Commander Jamiri, and then introduced the rest as commanders, Mako,
Ingot and others.
That same night the rebels made up their ransom demand by typing a
asking for P2 million. Three weeks have passed since our abduction and
our group have been bombarded by military artillery aud bombed by
airplanes. We camped out in the mangrove area to avoid being hit.
After four days, Nonoy plans to escape. The next morning Nonoy asked
commander if we could take a bath in the shore. After our guard left us
to take a bath himself, Nonoy pretended to be following small fishes
we were really moving away from the guard who was out of sight. After a
few meters, Nonoy started to run while dragging me along. Nonoy
me to wave at any boat in sight.
Nonoy saw a boat in a few distance. He waved at the people on the boat.
Nonoy did not have his glasses at that time and we were recaptured.
The rebels were surprised by our attempt to escape and pointed their
at us. From that day on, they chained Nonoy most of the time.
For 91 days we have undergone that kind of an ordeal. Always being
by our guard. For me although I was too young to realize the danger, I
had a little fun.
of Pete and Babuchi Mortensen
and Nonoy inside a nipa hut during their 91-day ordeal. This was
photo sent by the kidnappers to the Murgas demanding
a P2-million ransom.
Three weeks before our release, my mother Babuchi came with Sultan
Lim. Nonoy and I did not know that my mom was coming. We were really
to see her. Nonoy warned her not to stay long because she does not know
what kidnappers do to women, especially in this part of the country.
On the fateful day of our release, Nonoy and I with some rebels, riding
a worn out vinta, were rowing towards the rescue team. They came on a
boat. On board were my grandfather, Peter Murga, Sultan Lim, his
the boat's driver and the negotiator named "Fox".
As the vinta hit the speed boat, my grandfather threw the money,
in a tupperware, into the water as Nonoy and I transferred from the
to the speed boat. I was at the top front of the boat past the
My uncle, Nonoy, was standing in the middle of the boat looking for a
where to seat. Then all of a sudden I fell flat on the boat. The rebels
fired in our direction as the boat sped away. Fixing myself from the
I stood up and took over the wheel of the speed boat. I asked myself,
the driver?" I looked around and saw him on my right side he was hit
I glanced over the boat's windshield and saw that the boat was going
towards the firing rebels. I turned the wheel thinking it was a video
Now safely away from the kidnapper's line of fire and under supervision
of my grandfather, I drove the boat to Lamitan, a nearby municipality.
I looked around to see where everybody was. "Where is Nonoy?," I asked
myself. I cried out loud when I saw him (Nonoy) down on the floor of
boat with a pool of blood in his back. Sultan Lim was unconscious, his
secretary was alright but stunned. My grandfather was looking at me at
that time with a wounded hand and the negotiator was unhurt.
At that point in time, Nonoy was shouting in pain as my grandfather
on saying, "hang on, Nonoy."
Upon reaching the port, everybody disembarked. My uncle was brought out
in a stretcher and my grandfather beside me. As we were about to leave
for the hospital, the negotiator grabbed me, but I managed to slip away
from his grip and I ran towards my grandfather. A woman who witnessed
had just happened told me to stay close to my grandfather.
Nonoy was dead upon arrival at the hospital. Before he died, he said,
I shall be with You today."
Two hours later, a military helicopter took us to Zamboanga City---the
seriously wounded first and the unhurt last.
My mother, Pilar Murga-Mortensen, was happy that Nonoy and I were
home that afternoon. My grandfather broke the news to her about the
I only have one thing to say about that incident.
"I'm sorry Nonoy for breaking my promise."
Nonoy and I made a promise while in captivity that when he dies, I too
will die with him. I'm so sorry, Nonoy. Please forgive me." When I do
I hope it's at 11:00 a.m., May 9 on a Saturday. (END)
NOTE: Below is an e-mail we received from Majo dated March 13, 2001. We
wish him and his new family the best and good luck.)
to Becky Baum from Altoona, Pennsylvania
Life has been good so far. These last few years God has blessed me
I can't thank Him enough for what He has done in my life. Since the
I have had dreams and nightmares about the experience. I miss Nonoy
much but I know that he is always beside me.
The experience has made me realize that life is too short to waste time
with. Love the ones you love and love the ones you hate, for life is
short to love and hate. Live day to day and don't worry about the
Tomorrow will come eventually and you will have no control over
You can always wonder, but you don't have to worry. God has us
where we are supposed to be. Sometimes it takes a painful experience to
make us change our ways. And most importantly, love your enemies as
as you love yourself (this has kept me sane). And the greatest thing
I learned is that God never leaves you alone, He will always keep
out for you and working for you.
My family is well. Babuchi (mom) is working hard as always and
has her good cooking skills. Pete (dad) is still as "Cano" as
always looking good. I don't think he will ever get old. Brothers and
are off to colleges and getting engaged. But my little brother Ramon is
still at home and going to middle school.
Myself, I have been busy tinkering around with computers and networks.
I play the classical guitar and am heavily involved in my church
I'm part of a band called Presence Of One. It is kinda of a mix of 60's
style folk music with a Spanish and Filipino flare. The members
Cindy, Kay, Daniel, and me. We hope to get our cd out into the market
Easter or the end of April. We also hope to perform in coffee houses
churches and the radio.
I got married in 1997 and I have recently bought a house in VA.
has helped me break my bad habits of procrastination and laziness. Her
love for me is unquestionable and I love her very much. Although she is
Caucasian, she understands our culture very much. She even eats
bagoong and dinuguan! She has lived in a Filipino community in
for 15 years. Thank goodness that she understands why I point with my
when asked where something is.
Well I think that is all for now. Until then God bless you and
I will start thinking of an article title and write something. Thanks
listening and encouraging me.
Below is a copy of Majo's article which he wrote in long hand and dated
April 7, 1987. He was 16 years old at the time. Again, I would like to
thank Majo and his parents for sharing with us this painful, but
experience. And to Nonoy, may you rest in everlasting peace!
of Pete and Babuchi Mortensen
picture of Pete and Babuchi Mortensen and their children taken in 1987.
Majo is seated at far right. The Mortensens live in Virginia.
2002 | Send comments and/or suggestions to: L.A.