THREE-year-old Allaina Pagaling touched the framed photograph of her father and said gently, “Papa, Papa.”
Allaina is named after her father, Seaman 1st Class Rod Allain Pagaling, the tattooed coast guardsman in the viral video blindfolded and kneeling with two others, surrounded by eight Abu Sayyaf bandits brandishing assault rifles and machetes.
“We last spoke on May 23, a day before the video surfaced,” Judith Pradia, Pagaling’s long-time partner and the mother of Allaina, said.
“He was asking for numbers of radio stations here in Cagayan,” Pradia said.
Before he left for the Coast Guard station in Dapitan in the middle of April, Judith said they had made plans to finally marry on May 25, Allaina’s birthday.
Instead, Judith said they were talking two days before their supposed wedding day, finding ways to get through the city’s radio stations to air his appeal for help before it became too late for him and his two companions.
Judith said the Abu Sayyaf bandits had started contacting them on May 11, a week after the abduction, letting them speak to Allain who told them he was with many other kidnap victims aside from his two Aliguay companions.
Judith said the calls would always come from 6 to 8 p.m. and she would ask Allain where he was, noting the sound of crickets and other night-time insects in the background. But Allain would not say anything, telling her instead that he was on loudspeaker.
“He would ask about his Allaina and he would beg me and his sister to find ways to get him out,” Judith said.
Thirty-year-old Pagaling, along with fellow coast guardsman Gringo Villaruz and Aliguay village chairman Robert Bulagao, was abducted at 1:45 a.m. on May 4.
Pagaling and Villaruz are Philippine Coast Guard safety inspectors detailed at Aliguay Island, an island village near the town of Dapitan.
The island is home to white sand beaches and its seas are stocked with tropical fishes and coral reefs. It is popular among foreign and local tourists who often book tours to the island from the Dakak Resort in nearby Dapitan.
Pagaling’s eldest sister Joy said it was perhaps for this reason that the bandits, numbering at least six on board two motorized bancas, came.
Joy said her youngest brother was not yet two weeks on the island when the abduction took place. The assignment was temporary as and Allain used to base in the Coast Guard Station in Dapitan.
Pagaling, along with Villaruz, were the only uniformed state security personnel on the island, Joy said.
Joy added she was out when a Coast Guard officer came to inform them of the abduction at about 8 a.m. on May 4. Joy said she hurried to the Coast Guard District-Northern Mindanao headquarters in Puntod, Cagayan de Oro City.
“They told me the Coast Guard is doing all it can to recover my brother. They also informed me of the government’s no ransom policy” she said.
Speaking to the bandits on the phone, Joy said she told them they have no way of raising the ransom money, pegged initially at P100 million, then to P50 million, then finally to P3 million. The bandits also demanded an advance of P50,000, for “board and lodging,” but even that, Joy said, is almost impossible to produce.
“My father is retired and out of five siblings, Allain is the only one with a regular income,” Joy said, “we are not rich, where will we get the money,” she said she told one of the kidnappers in one of their phone calls.
Joy gestured toward Judith and Allain’s daughter and said, “What about them? Allain is the breadwinner, they are having difficulty putting food on the table as it is. Where will we find money for ransom?”
In hopes that the bandits would show mercy, Joy said she told them about her being a Muslim convert.
“After that, they called me again and told me to just pay the P50,000,” Joy said.
Joy said after the video came out on May 24, there has been no contact. She said they would call the Abu Sayyaf bandit negotiating with them but would get no answer.
Contact with the bandits for the families of Allain’s two companions has also ceased, Joy said with eyes welling up.
“It has been more than a month,” Joy said, “I hope,” she said after a long pause, looking at Allain and Judith.
But Joy never finished her sentence, dreading to say aloud what is in her mind.