Monday, Oct 26

Relief aid, clean-up drive brings hope to fire survivors

December 28, 2017 | Erin Uy

Tzu Chi volunteers prepare themselves for the clean-up drive that they will be conducting at the fire site. More than 50 volunteers from the Marikina and Rizal areas quickly responded to the summons of Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao for the clean-up drive held at NIA road in Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City.【Photo by Erin Uy】

Story Highlights

  • Tzu Chi volunteers quickly respond to the fire survivors who lost their homes in a fire that gutted a residential block on December 27 at Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City.

  • A clean-up drive was also established to help local residents at the fire site to clear out the debris around the area.

  • A relief aid distribution was also held at the Barangay Pinyahan covered court, where a total of 503 families benefitted from emergency aid in the form of sleeping mats, blankets as well as hygiene kits.


Tzu Chi volunteers quickly rushed out to NIA road on December 28, following the aftermath of the large fire that had left more than 400 families homeless when the fire broke out on the evening of December 27.

Upon arrival at the site, Tzu Chi volunteers witnessed the living conditions of the survivors living in the streets. While some families had relocated to the barangay’s covered court, others opted to remain close to where their homes used to stand, in the hopes of finding salvageable materials to sell for money.

Roberto de Paz, one of the affected residents shares his story. He was at home helping his family prepare their dinner when they heard neighbors shouting that a fire had broken out in the area. Upon going outside to check, the flames were close to his house; he then made a grab for what they could save, and helped his family escape the flames.

“When I ran back to try and get more of our things, the fire had spread (so quickly). I wasn’t able to get my wife’s savings; nor our important papers. I’ve already asked for help from my company so that we could at least start to rebuild what we lost,” he narrates. He is an on-call construction worker currently based in Ayala, Makati City.

“What we really need right now is water. As of now we have no running water here, it’s been difficult to attend to our hygienic needs; as well as get something to drink. We’d appreciate at least having a dedicated truck out here that can supply us with water for our basic needs,” he adds. Water access had been cut off to the area, making daily life difficult.

All the same, he is thankful for Tzu Chi’s presence in the area.

“We appreciate the assistance you (Tzu Chi) brought out here so far. We don’t mind if it’s a lot or just enough to get by, as long as we know that there are people out there who care for calamity survivors like ourselves here, we truly appreciate the help that we receive; and that we haven’t been left to fend for ourselves,” de Paz remarks.

Another resident, Dionisio Patayan, also prioritized saving his family from the flames.

“I was out here, minding the small variety store we have here when I heard the commotion. I was surprised at how quickly the fire was spreading; and due to that I was only able to grab my family members and make a run for it. We weren’t able to save anything,” he narrates.

At the same time, he is thankful that everyone in his family is safe. “I’m relieved that we were all able to get out alive; never mind that we lost everything, as long as we’re still safely together I’m okay with it. Before we got out, I saw that the fire was only two houses away from where we were,” he adds.

Upon seeing the presence of Tzu Chi volunteers helping clean out the area where his home used to stand, he is unable to express his gratitude. Instead, he gives them an encouraging smile as his way of showing thanks.

“I’m happy that there are people (like you at Tzu Chi) helping us out. Even though this is the second time a large fire broke out, this is the first time that I’ve seen others rush to our aid and help us get through this crisis,” he says.

Tzu Chi volunteers also spread out at the fire site in order to help the residents with the clean-up process. More than fifty volunteers from the Marikina and Rizal areas were seen going deep into the affected area, helping haul out debris from the surrounding area.

“It feels good to help out others, because I’ve seen their difficulties first-hand. I have this feeling of being able to help them out directly; it makes me want to help them even more. I know that they’re going through a lot right now; while I was helping clean out a resident’s home earlier, they (the homeowner) didn’t want to say anything even though I knew that they were very thankful for the help that we were giving them,” shares Tzu Chi volunteer Siony de Guzman.

Even though she’d come from the airport to fetch her husband who’d just returned from his work overseas, she had chosen to come to the fire site in order to extend what help she can give to those affected.

“We were also advised that we would be assisting with general clean-up of the area. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, as long as I know that I’m able to lend a helping hand to the affected families,” she adds.

After today’s general clean-up and relief aid distribution, “Today made me realize that I knew I had so much more to give, my life regained its true meaning, and that I want to continue helping out others in need.”

Relief aid delivered

At the same time, while there are families that remained at the fire site to stand guard over their property, others had opted to evacuate to the barangay’s covered court located at Malakas Street. Close to five hundred affected individuals are sharing the cramped space at the moment.

Conchita Busarang, one of the individuals who chose to seek shelter at the covered court, cannot find enough words to express her heartfelt gratitude to Tzu Chi.

“The relief aid that we residents of NIA road have received today means a lot to us, especially coming from you (Tzu Chi). Like everyone else, I want to say ‘thank you very much’ on behalf of everyone affected by the fire,” she remarks.

Hers is one of the 503 families who received emergency relief aid from Tzu Chi volunteers on this day. The distribution was held at the barangay covered court.

During the short program conducted before the distribution of emergency relief goods, Barangay Pinyahan Chairman Jesus Lipnica Jr. stepped up to share his own experiences with Tzu Chi.

“The first thing I saw from my encounter with Tzu Chi is the fact that you have good missions, especially when it comes to helping out people in need; and that’s why I have great respect for the Foundation,” he shares.

Prior to the relief aid that his constituents had received on December 28, Tzu Chi had visited his area on December 15 to promote its environmental protection program in the area.

“When I see Tzu Chi, I immediately know that you’re here to do good for the sake of everyone; to be honest this is not my first encounter with your foundation. Before the fire broke out, I’ve witnessed the recycling program here in our area. It also stresses the importance that you’re not just there to help out others who need it, but also helping out the environment at the same time,” he adds.

Similarly, Tzu Chi volunteers express their sentiments on the relief aid distribution.

“As a Tzu Chi volunteer, I’m thankful that I’m able to join activities such as this, today,” says Visitacion Cuesta.

All the same, she is thankful that she was one of the many Tzu Chi volunteers who came to help out.

“I feel sad for our fellows who were affected by the fire; the best we can do is to accept what had happened, and then move forward while being thankful at the same time that we are still here,” she remarks.

  • Tzu Chi volunteers get busy with hauling out fire debris from the area.【Photo by Caroline Uy】

  • Working together as a cohesive unit, Tzu Chi volunteers help clean up the sidewalk and the surrounding immediate area.【Photo by Caroline Uy】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Siony de Guzman helps a local resident clear out the area of debris that had been left behind in the fire’s wake.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • A group of Tzu Chi volunteers helps clear out the mountain of fire debris from one of the residential blocks that had been gutted in the blaze on December 27.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • Two Tzu Chi volunteers clear out a pile of burned debris from one of the inner residential blocks.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • Dionisio Patayan stands guard over the few pieces of wood that he’s salvaged from the ruins of his former home. Before the blaze gutted the residential block, he was an owner of one of many small convenience stores in the area.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • Over at the Barangay Pinyahan covered court, residents line up in order to receive their claim stub for the emergency relief aid distribution to be held at the venue.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao addresses the assembled crowd of evacuees at the Pinyahan covered court. 503 families will be the beneficiaries of emergency relief aid at the end of the short program.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • Barangay Pinyahan chairman Jesus Lipnica Jr. shares his personal experiences of Tzu Chi to the assembled crowd, while local Tzu Chi volunteers listen eagerly.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer James Chua shares an inspirational story with the crowd.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • Tzu Chi volunteers lead the crowd to the sign-language motions of “One Family” / “Isang Pamilya”, which does not touch on any specific faith or religion but instead wishes for each and every individual to feel the united love of Tzu Chi’s Great Love.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • Conchita Busarang (in blue shirt) waits in line for her relief aid. She represents one of the 503 beneficiary families that have received Tzu Chi’s immediate aid in the form of sleeping materials as well as personal hygiene kits and other basic necessities.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • A Tzu Chi volunteer inspects the claim stub that Conchita Busarang hands over, before proceeding forward to the receiving end of the aid distribution.【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer James Chua hands over a bag of clothes to Conchita Busarang. Like many, the fire survivors have escaped the blaze with only the clothes on their backs. 【Photo by Erin Uy】

  • A relief aid beneficiary happily receives the donated clothes and sleeping materials that Tzu Chi has brought over to the fire survivors of Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City.【Photo by Caroline Uy】