By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY—“Bugtaw! Bugtaw! (Wake up! Wake up!)” wailed Joyce Demafelis, the youngest sister of the Filipina housemaid whose lifeless body was found hidden inside a freezer in Kuwait.
It was a bitter reunion between 20-year-old Joyce and 29-year-old Joanna Daniela, whose remains arrived at the Iloilo International Airport in a wooden box early this morning.
It was not the reunion either of the sisters anticipated. Joanna, who financed Joyce’s college education, earlier promised to go back to the country when Joyce graduates.
Joyce, who wanted to be a police officer, had to stop studying criminology when they stopped hearing from Joanna and they didn’t receive the latter’s remittances anymore.
Joanna left the country in May 2014 to help her family in the northern Iloilo town of Sara to rebuild their lives after super-typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) destroyed their house in November 2013.
Joanna’s homecoming today brought the Demafelis family together for the first time in many years, but they were there to fetch a wooden box containing a daughter and sister who is believed to have been beaten to death by the Lebanese man and Syrian woman she worked for in Kuwait City.
Joanna’s mother Eva kept “Baby Girl” while her father Crisanto was more contained and hugged all his children.
While many members of the immediate family refrained from granting interviews, Joanna’s aunt Rosela Demafelis Taunan said Joanna’s only desire to work abroad was to give her family a better life.
“Sa pangarap niya, amo ina na abutan niya, (Because of her desire, that’s what happened to her),” Rosela told Manila Bulletin.
More than 100 relatives flocked to the airport to fetch her body and carried banners crying for justice.
From the airport, Iloilo 5th District Rep. Raul Tupas led the convoy that transported Joanna’s body to Sara. The almost two-hour land travel saw many Ilonggos lining up the main highway to pay their respects to the woman who became the latest symbol of the injustices suffered by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) reiterated to the Demafelis family that the Duterte administration is working in close coordination with the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to track down the two suspects.
Authorities in Kuwait earlier claimed that the Lebanese man and his Syrian wife fled Kuwait after Joanna’s death.
When they are caught, OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the married couple will be charged criminally in Kuwait.
Cacdac also reiterated that the Demafelis family will receive due benefits from the government.