Remains of OFW Joanna Demafelis back home at last in Iloilo
Published: 7:42 a.m., Feb. 17, 2018 | Updated: 11:56 p.m., Feb. 17, 2018
ILOILO CITY — “Bugtaw, ate, bugtaw (Wake up, sister, wake up)!”
Joyce Demafelis repeatedly cried as she embraced the wooden box containing the remains of her sister, Joanna, after it arrived at the Iloilo International Airport early Saturday morning.
“Baby Girl,” as Joanna was fondly called by her loved ones, finally came home four years after she left to work as a domestic helper in Kuwait.
But her death has left her loved ones in shock. Her mother, Eva, pounded the box and broke down at the airport.
“I cannot accept it,” Eva said, as she and her husband, Crisanto, as well as relatives and townmates waited for Philippine Airlines Flight PR-2139 from Manila.
Eva and the other members of the Demafelis family wore white shirts and held up streamers calling for justice as they waited at the airport’s cargo area.
“Baby Girl was such a good-natured girl. She was shy, always quiet and still smiled even when she was angry,” said Joanna’s aunt, Rosela Demafelis-Taunan, who helped raised her.
Taunan was among some 80 of Joanna’s relatives and townmates who left Sara town, about 98 kilometers northeast of Iloilo City, at 2 a.m. to fetch Joanna’s remains.
Shortly after the plane arrived at 5:52 a.m. and the box containing Demafelis’ remains was unloaded, a convoy of some 30 vehicles escorted the hearse to a funeral parlor in Ajuy town. Her remains would be brought to Ferraris village in Sara for the wake.
The sixth of nine siblings, Joanna left for Kuwait in 2014 with a dream of helping her parents, both farmers, and her sister Joyce.
“She came to me and asked permission before she left. I did not want her to go,” Taunan said.
But her niece said she wanted to help her family redeem the 2-hectare farmland the family had pawned to pay for her trip to Kuwait. She also wanted to complete the repairs to their house, which was destroyed by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013.
But it was not to be. Joanna’s body was found inside a freezer in the apartment abandoned by her employers. Joanna’s remains are expected to be buried after a two-week wake.
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