Maricel went into labor on Christmas Eve. She came riding a motorcycle driven by her husband, from far out in the rice paddies surrounding the small town of Dulag. As she traveled on this uncomfortable mode of transportation, contractions wracking her tired body, she passed scene after scene of mass destruction; piles of rubble that used to be neighbor's homes, other houses with no roofs, make-shift tents and lean-to tarp shelters, twisted metal, cars upsidedown in trees, and other sights that reminded her of the horrible storm that passed by only 46 days before. For Maricel it seemed like a lifetime that she and her family had been deprived of food, clean water, shelter, and any comforts of home. Now she was in labor, heading out to find out if any health centers were open, and free of charge, for she had no money. What pesos they had stored away for a rainy day had literally blown away in the rain and wind of Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolonda within the Philippines. And she and her husband had had no work since the storm. Maricel knew the health centers close to her home had been badly damaged in the storm, and were closed. Yet as they turned onto the highway and headed into the capital, they saw a sign that said "MERCY IN ACTION MATERNITY CENTER FREE DELIVERIES HERE. Almost not daring to hope, Maricel told her husband to pull into the school grounds, where they followed the signs to a broken down classroom. Inside it was bright with lights from a generator, and several cheerful women met her at the door. Yes, the midwives said, you can give birth here, in our safe and clean tent with all the equipment needed for any birth emergency. They lovingly guided her in, gave her a thorough exam, and told her that she and her baby were both handling labor well and birth would happen soon. A few hours later, Maricel, after a gentle and calm delivery, leaned forward off the birth stool and picked up her crying, squirming baby girl and gathered her into her arms. Putting the baby to her breast, she cried with joy and said "Thank you, thank you so much!" The midwives deferred, and murmered "Thanks be to God". And Christmas came once again, in the shattered land left behind by the largest storm to ever make landfall.
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Subic Bay Freeport Zone,