Kevin Lunsmann, a 14-year-old American boy, outwitted the al-Qaeda-linked militants who had held him captive for five months in a jungle in the Philippines by finally escaping to safety.
Lunsmann was lost for almost two days, wandering without shoes, before he was found by villagers, according to his father, Heiko Lunsmann.
ABC News affiliate WSET spoke with Heiko about his son's return. I'm so proud of my son, he's a hero, he wandered two days through the jungle, Heiko Lunsmann said.
That was a tough time, it was tough five months, he said. I only know he is a hero and I'm so happy he escaped.
The boy was proud of himself. I did it on my own, Dad, they didn't release me, I did it, family friend Jean Gowen told ABC News.
In July, Lunsmann was vacationing in the Philippines with his Filipino-American mother, Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, and his cousin, Romnick Jakari, when the three were kidnapped in Zamboanga City and taken to Basilan.
The captors, who have al-Qaeda affiliations, then called the family in Campbell County, Va., demanding ransom money. Heiko paid an undisclosed amount but only Kevin's mother was released. Kevin and his counsin remained in their clutches.
The deal was for them to release both Kevin and Gerfa at the time, but they only released one of them, Gowen said. I think they wanted more money.
Kevin Lunsmann told ABC that he was able to convince his four captors to allow him to take a bath at a nearby stream. Once out of sight, he chose to make a run for it. He followed a river down a mountain in Basilan. Late the next day, villagers found him with bruises on his arms and feet.
Lunsmann initially fled from the villagers because he was still wary. Police Senior Superintendant Edwin de Ocampo told The Associated Press that Lunsmann was exhausted, hungry and stunned when he was found.
Lunsmann is currently at a hospital in Manila where he has been reunited with his mother. His father is ecstatic that his family is safe.
That was a tough time, it was a tough fine months, Heiko Lunsmann told WSET. It wasn't easy for me.
He banged on my door and broke down crying when he told me, Gowen said. I cried and screamed, too. It was at the point where we all feared they were going to kill him, we've all just been devastated.
His father is decorating the house as we speak, Gowen said. They want everything to be as normal as possible for Kevin's arrival.
Kevin's cousin was able to escape the kidnappers last month when Filipino army forces got close to the camp where they were being held.
Kidnapping has been a pervasive problem in the area. Army Coronel Ricardo Visaya told the AP the kidnappers are thought to be led by a militant, Puruji Indama, of Abu Sayyaf. The group has links to al Qaeda and is on a list of U.S. terrorist organizations. They are reportedly responsible reprehensible acts like kidnappings, beheadings, and bombings.