MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Rescuers who pleaded for help from tribal deity saved a miner on Friday who had been trapped for a week in a collapsed tunnel in the northern Philippines.
Their efforts to pull out Felipe Pilmaco finally paid off after rescuers offered a black pig to tribal god Kabunian, said police Supt. Mario Mayam-es, a member of the Igorot indigenous group in Benguet province.
Pilmaco turned 33 years old Tuesday inside the tunnel in Bokod township where he had been trapped since Aug. 2.
"I must have said a thousand prayers inside the tunnel," said Pilmaco, a Roman Catholic originally from the central Philippines.
There were times when he almost lost hope but found strength in prayers, he added in a telephone interview from his hospital bed.
The small-scale miner survived on food, oxygen and a cellular phone delivered through a galvanized pipe inserted between boulders and mud.
The town's doctor, Lilian Velasco, said he was fine except for dehydration, minor cuts and an eye infection.
Mayam-es said rescuers asked for "guidance and help" from Kabunian because every time they were closing in on the trapped miner, loose sand, boulders and rocks would rush down, blocking their way.
Pilmaco said while he was not an Igorot, he believed in the power of the ritual because rescuers were able to get him alive.
"I thank all those who saved me; I owe them my life," he added in a spritely voice.
He said he has been mining in the area since April in hopes of finding gold but has not had luck yet.
Thousands of poor and untrained miners brave makeshift mining tunnels in the area to eke out a living.