Ediborah Yap: The Almost-Forgotten Hero

The Filipino nurse could have escaped from Abu Sayyaf but stayed to care for the Burhams.

Ediborah Yap, who was held hostage with Martin and Gracia Burnham, has become an afterthought since dying on June 7. Most news accounts have focused on the Burnhams' plight and only briefly mention "Yap, a Filipino nurse." But Yap, a hostage of Abu Sayyaf for over a year, was as much a heroic figure as the Burnhams.

Rebels took Yap captive from the Torres Memorial Hospital compound on Basilan Island on June 2, 2001, to treat their wounded. "She was taken hostage when she was doing her duty as a nurse, and even in captivity she was doing her duty," said Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. According to some reports, Yap had the opportunity to escape at one point, but she chose to stay and care for the Burnhams.

That decision proved fatal. Yap, 48, died from three gunshots during a rescue attempt on June 7. "Ediborah died in the line of duty," Macapagal-Arroyo said.

A Navy patrol craft brought her body to Lamitan, a religiously mixed village on Basilan Island, about 550 miles south of Manila. Hundreds of residents were at the airport when her body arrived on June 9, and both Christians and Muslims attended her funeral Mass. Macapagal-Arroyo said the government plans to name a hospital in Yap's honor.

Yap was a mother of four children, ages 23, 20, 18, and 7. While in captivity, she sent them letters through secret couriers. "My heart really aches whenever I remember you," she wrote in November. "I'll never stop loving you till my last breath." In other letters, she reminded her daughter to plan for college and asked for chocolates for the Burnhams.

Gracia Burnham met briefly with Yap's children before she returned to Kansas. "If you have the courage of your mother," she told them, "you will all be a success."

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Ediborah Yap: The Almost-Forgotten Hero
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July 8, 2002

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