Philip Blackwood returns to Wellington after being freed from Myanmar prison
Philip Blackwood held his young daughter close and smiled at the prospect of tasting some Kiwi barbecue again after returning home to Wellington following 13 months in a Myanmar prison.
Blackwood was embraced by family at Wellington Airport on Friday night after flying in from Auckland.
"I'm going to spend time with this little monster," he said, clutching his daughter Sasha.
"We've lost a bit of time ... for her, she probably won't remember the time that we lost, so that's a good thing. But for me it was very difficult."
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Blackwood had been locked up at the notoriously tough Insein Prison in Yangon since late 2014.
He was tried and sentenced in March of that year to 2½ years jail for religious crimes, after posting an image on Facebook of Buddha in headphones to promote cheap drinks at the bar he managed.
The 33-year old was imprisoned under religious offence provisions of the Myanmar Penal Code. Last week he was finally given a presidential pardon by Myanmar's government.
After touching down in Wellington, he said he had no real plans other than perhaps reacquainting himself with Kiwi cuisine.
"I might have a barbecue, eh? Eat some lamb or something like that."
On a more serious note, he said his time in jail had been very difficult.
"I slept on a wooden pallet for 13 months and every night when I went to sleep, I never wished for a softer bed. I just wished for my family."
Blackwood landed at Auckland Airport earlier on Friday afternoon where he had an emotion reunion with his father Brian Blackwood.
"Today is the first day of the rest of my life," he said in Auckland before boarding his flight to Wellington.
"People say prison changes you and I didn't want that to happen to me. I just wanted to stay true to who I was and just make the best of the situation - which sounds a little bit interesting."
While he tried to remain positive in prison, Blackwood said he had been affected by the compassion of strangers who wrote to him, and he now wanted to return the favour and do something for others.
"One of the hardest parts about it was, I could cope with things happening to me inside prison but it was difficult knowing people outside had those emotions going through them and [were] feeling empathy for my situation.
"I'd just like to say thanks to everyone. I've got a lot of thanking to do."