SIBU: They went hungry for days, had to run for cover from bombs, were stung by scorpions and mosquitoes and repeatedly assaulted.
That was not all. After about two months in captivity, the four Sarawakian sailors taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf gunmen were shown the chilling video clip of Canadian hostage John Risdel's beheading and were warned that they were facing the same fate.
"Our thoughts then were that we are all going to die soon.
"The grisly footage kept playing in our minds," Wong Teck Kang, 31, told reporters in the highly anticipated interview after their release.
As leader of the group, he added that the militants told him he would be the first to be beheaded if their demand for ransom was not met.
"We could not sleep and kept praying for our safety," he said.
Teck Kang, his brother Teck Chii, 29, their cousin, Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, and Wong Hung Sing, 34, were abducted by the gunmen on board the MV Massive 6 tugboat while returning to Sarawak on April 1.
They were released on June 7 by their captors after a protracted negotiation.
Teck Kang recalled how all four had practically given up hope of coming home alive.
A turning point came all of a sudden on June 6.
"One of the gunmen told us not to worry anymore," Teck Kang revealed.
"He said: 'All of you will be going home tomorrow (June 7)'.
"We were shocked, speechless and looked at each other. We could not believe what we have just heard."
Teck Kang, who is married to a Vietnamese and has two children, recalled that they were not given anything to eat on the first three days under captivity.
"After that, it was just simple meal of rice and fish. Once, they gave us tapioca shoots but we did not eat it as it was alien to us," he said.
"We would drink rain water. There was no proper bath and we just soaked ourselves in the rain to keep clean.
"We were stung by scorpions and mosquitoes, too," he said.
Teck Kang said the gunmen, numbering about 20, would punch and slap them occasionally but none ever pointed their guns at them.
"Each time after assaulting us, they would ask if we wanted to go home," he said, adding that the pirates spoke in broken English and Malay.
He said most of the time, he and the other captives kept quiet and whenever they spoke to each other, they would be assaulted.
Asked if they had thought of escaping, he said they could not do so as their legs were chained.
"We were forced to wear black attire as the Philippines military were actively pursuing them. Bombs were dropped quite often and we had to run for cover in the thick dense forest.
"Each time, when helicopters were heard flying above, they would shout to us lari (run)," he related.
Due to this, Teck Kang said they hardly slept much.
"I regretted not listening to my wife to stop being a sailor. I will quit. No more sailing for me, that's for sure," he said.
Asked why they had been kept for so long by the police in Kota Kinabalu upon their release, he said the police were taking their statements and sending them for medical check-ups.
Lau, who was still traumatised by the ordeal, sought medical treatment for skin-related disease.