By Per Liljas
March 6, 2014

On the side of a road outside the central-Philippine city of Tacloban, next to a paddy field, 18-year-old Ryan Bacate was in a panic. Not just because the heavy rain and strong wind brought back the horror of Haiyan, the supertyphoon that flattened this part of the country in November, leaving more than 6,200 dead and an additional 4 million displaced. Bacate’s pregnant partner Analyn Pesado, also 18, was lying on the ground, about to give birth–3 miles from the nearest clinic, in Tolosa.

Bacate and Pesado were on his motorbike en route to the clinic after she had gone into labor. Another man on a motorbike happened by and rushed to Tolosa to get midwife Norina Malate. When she arrived, the baby was crowning. Malate encouraged Pesado to push. Once the baby emerged, Malate disinfected her snippers with alcohol and cut the umbilical cord. Onlookers helped carry Pesado and her baby, a boy, onto a pickup truck that took them to the Tolosa clinic.

Photographer Lynsey Addario was on assignment for Save the Children, which is helping rebuild health care infrastructure in Haiyan-hit areas, when she captured the remarkable Jan. 11 birth. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Addario. “It was such a community effort. When you see a baby born like that and it is fine, you’ve got to think it’s kind of miraculous.”

Tacloban, ground zero when Haiyan struck, and its ravaged environs could do with more miracles. Residents now have a steady supply of food and water, tons of debris have been cleared away, and in Tacloban, a few restaurants and bars have reopened. But homes and jobs are scarce. Hundreds of thousands of people are still in temporary housing, about a million coconut farmers have had their crops devastated, and 30,000 fishing boats have been damaged or destroyed. Few buildings have electricity, and it may take a year to get everyone back on the grid. Prices of necessities have almost doubled, and many schools have not reopened. The better educated are seeking opportunity elsewhere.

Overshadowing everything is the grief for lost loved ones, never abating for many, no matter how much time passes. That’s why the baby named Ryan Jr. means so much not only to his parents but also to the countless people who have been hurt by Haiyan. Pesado recalls her fear for her unborn child. “After the typhoon, I was worried about where I would give birth,” she says. “I never thought someone would come and help. I thought it would be just me and my husband.” But with the kindness of strangers, Pesado and Bacate prevailed. For that moment, hope triumphed over despair, and life over death.

–PER LILJAS

This appears in the March 17, 2014 issue of TIME.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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