THE REPLACEMENT DAUGTHER
17 NOVEMBER 2013 / TANAUAN, LEYTE
THE REPLACEMENT DAUGTHER
Joy Marabot (above) said goodbye at a little past eight in the morning of Friday, November 8, 2013.
It was an odd way to say goodbye. She was alone, in the dark, soaked and pregnant and confused, pinned by surging waves against the outside wall of a building in Barangay Sto. Niño in Tanauan town, a thick wooden log pressing hard against her belly.
Her goodbye ended with this. Lord, she said, Lord, I place my faith in you.
A FAMILY OF FIVE
On Thursday evening, November 7, Joy and Michael had three daughters. Mikaela Joy, 9, Michelle Ivory, 4, and Miley Faith, two.
They were with her on a bridge in Sto. Niño along with a crowd of others, standing where they always stood whenever a storm swept over the coast. It was a safe place, a strong place, a looming bridge built of stone and cement.
At six in the morning of Friday, the rain began to fall. At 8 am, the water rose.
Get ready, said Michael.
The water rose, higher and higher. The crowd moved up the bridge, as high as they could go. Then the waves came. Twice the height of a man, lashing against the bridge, punching against the pillars, sweeping Joy out into the water.
Joy hung on to a log, Miley Faith in her arms. Twice, there were waves, twice Joy resurfaced, snatching log after log. The water raged. It would have been all right, she said, until an electric post slammed against the back of her neck.
And so Joy fell. Sucked into the water, into the dark, an eight-months-pregnant woman who couldn’t swim clutching a two-year-old baby who couldn’t cry.
When Joy resurfaced, Miley Faith was gone, and Joy had one less daughter.
‘I‘M SORRY I LOST HER‘
Joy was certain she would die. It did not concern her.
And so when the log pinning her was swept away, she let herself be swept along, further upstream, across a broken post stretching over the river. Clinging to the post was her nine-year-old daughter, between her brothers-in-law.
Joy decided to live. She forced her way to the post, slapped a hand on the shifting wood, and caught her daughter by the jacket sleeve just as another wave flung Mikaela Joy into the water. Joy hung on, holding her oldest girl.
The post jerked in the water, and they decided to let go, afraid to be thrown into another whirlpool. They headed to the bridge, thrashing against the current, shimmying up a pillar, all four—brothers-in-law Mickey and Mark, Joy, tiny Mikaela Joy—holding on to pocked cement for more than an hour.
The waves stopped, and the current slowed. There was shouting. Joy, Joy, from the rooftop of a building across the bridge. Joy, shouted Michael.
They made their painful way up. Michael thought his wife and daughters were dead. He had held on to 4-year-old Michelle Ivory, the little girl whom he had lost twice and found twice while swimming with a bleeding foot from rooftop to rooftop.
Joy, said Michael.
I’m sorry, said Joy. I’m sorry. I lost her.
Michael held her. It was all right, he said. He was glad she was alive. There was nothing she could have done.
FINDING MILEY FAITH
When the water receded, the family headed to one of the few standing structures left, a squat white building beside a gasoline station. In the backyard there were piles of debris—broken bed frames, pieces of chairs, a refrigerator.
Leaning on the refrigerator was a dead girl, maybe fourteen, maybe fifteen years old. Inside the house, shoved behind a pile of wood, they found another corpse, this time a woman in her thirties. They took out the bodies, wrapped them in soiled bed sheets, laid them along what was left of the street beside the tumbled pieces of what used to be their neighbors.
They found Miley Faith near the bridge, close to where Joy lost her in the water. They took the small dead body to the church for a blessing, then buried her, along with many others who found father and brother and sister and son on the shores of Tanauan.
Joy spent the day on a makeshift bed. Counting the minutes. Cradling her stomach. Waiting for the baby to move. She waited a long time, barely sleeping, exhausted. Joy had an ultrasound months ago. The baby in her stomach was a girl, and she was frightened she would lose one more daughter.
It took eight hours. And then the baby kicked.
THE LAST LITTLE GIRL
Joy is not sure how she will give birth, but it is too far off to worry. Her daughters are hungry. Her husband is jobless. Relief goods are slow to come. The teaching license she hoped to get in December is now an impossible thing, all her papers and diplomas swept away the same morning she lost Miley Faith.
She waddles across the bridge, a heavily pregnant young woman wearing an Angry Birds T-shirt and a borrowed cardigan, small Michelle Ivory bouncing on the road beside her.
Joy says she used to weep every night. She missed her youngest, the funniest, sweetest baby who set the family laughing.
Her husband told Joy to be strong. He said there were two daughters left who needed their mother. He said there was one more on the way. He said the new baby would take the place of Miley Faith.
Joy is happier now. It may be God’s will. It may be the only way she can cope. She will name the baby Megan Faith, after her dead daughter.
Before Yolanda, Joy and Michael had three daughters. Now they have two. Come the second week of December, Joy hopes to have her Faith back.
(Text : Patricia Evangelista / Rappler)