Thousands of Filipino women especially in far-flung rural areas depend on their local midwife to see her and her baby through a safe delivery. The midwife is the friend they trust with their pregnancy problems, the cheerleader who offers her hand when it’s time to push, the one who actually gets to hold the baby for the first time.
Allow us to honor two midwives from the provinces, one from Eastern Samar and another from Leyte, who have put community service at the center of mother and baby care. Mardi Berongoy: Midwife in Matarinao, Eastern Samar
After years of community service as a village councilor, Mardi Berongoy retired from her post in 2007. But she found herself longing for a way to serve the community again and picked midwifery as her next career, so to speak, in 2009.
From her work as a village councilor she knew there were only a handful of midwives servicing the needs of the women in Salcedo, her village in Eastern Samar. There were other villages that had no midwife at all. So Mardi decided to divide her work week between the different areas in Salcedo and other areas that are more remote.
One of these areas was Matarinao, a village that is accessible only by motorcycle, by foot, or small truck. Two to three times a week, Mardi gets on her motorcycle and travels for more than an hour to the village of more than 2,000 people where she is the only midwife.
To manage the obstacles of distance, Mardi partners with residents who help her keep tabs on the ladies who are about to give birth. She works with a local nurse who lives in Matarinao to alert her about a patient giving birth. They have also employed a “buntis buddy” (pregnancy buddy) system where the pregnant woman is partnered with a barangay health worker who can assist during delivery.
“I am happy to serve in this capacity as a midwife. I am most happy about taking care of the mother and baby after delivery through post-natal visits and vaccination,” said Mardi.
Happy mothers. Healthy strong babies. For Mardi, these are the simple yet profound joys of being a midwife.
Joy receiving medical supplies from UNFPA inside her clinic that damaged by Typhoon Haiayan. (Photo from UNFPA Philippines)
Midwifery was a profession that Joy Abuyabor says chose her. She was awarded a government scholarship from the University of the Philippines School of Medicine in Palo, Leyte, and since she graduated in 1997, Joy has been caring for the women and their newborns in her community with her own lying-in clinic.
There are the usual challenges that come with the job of being a midwife, but nothing compares to the day Typho0n Haiyan came in November 2014. Like most Filipinos, Joy remembers every detail of the day of the storm.
“It was hot. Very hot that day. And then it started to rain. We had two patients admitted then and we were monitoring them. We knew there was a storm but we had no idea that it would be that strong,” recalled Joy.
Then everything happened so fast--the rain, the wind, the unstoppable rise of the water. Joy’s clinic was around 1,000 meters from the ocean and river. Both overflowed and flooded the clinic that the hospital was left with no other choice except to bring the patients to the rooftop.
“The storm was only four hours long, but it felt like it was much longer than that. We felt like we were going to die,” said Joy.
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After the clinic was damaged, Joy delivered babies at this hospital tent. (Photo from UNFPA Philippines)
Both patients and Joy’s staff survived the typhoon, but they had to deal with the aftermath of the storm.“There were sick and the dead to take care of, but we had nothing. Everything was washed away. I hung a sign outside my door asking for medicines and the different aid agencies came to our help.”
In the days after the typhoon, Joy treated patients for free even if she herself had lost everything and needed to tend to her family. It didn’t matter. She knew grace would come back to her in other ways.
“That’s what we do. We hope. We pray. We survive and we move on.”
Apart from her lying-in clinic, Joy has finds ways to educate and train others and make quality healthcare accessible to the women of Palo. She is the founder of the Eastern Visayas MidWife Support Services, which provides training and medical supplies to birthing clinics.