Tzu Chi’s cash relief program (CRP) kicked off on August 16 with two objectives in mind. First, clear the four affected communities in Marikina City and San Mateo, Rizal of mud. And second, rekindle the spirit of volunteerism among the locals.
On the first day, 1,575 people joined in the simultaneous cleanup drive of Barangays Malanday, Tumana, and Nangka in Marikina, and Barangay Banaba in San Mateo. Each participant will get Php800 in cash aid for every day of service.
More than a thousand flood-affected residents in Marikina City and San Mateo, Rizal answer the rallying call to clear their community of the mud and filth left by days of relentless rain.
Responding to the plight of the residents, Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines on August 16 initiated a cash relief program (CRP). In exchange for an entire day of cleaning homes and communities, participants would receive Php800 in cash assistance to help them replace bare essentials lost in the flood caused by Tropical Storm Karding (Yagi). By far, this is the largest amount of cash aid given in a CRP following a disaster in the Philippines.
While it didn’t hit the country directly, Karding’s pull on the southwest monsoon brought weeks’ worth of rain to Metro Manila and adjacent provinces. As a result, the water level at Marikina River rose too quickly for families to save most of their belongings. When the disaster finally abated, they were met with a scene reminiscent of Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009.
On the first day of the CRP, 1,575 residents from four barangays in Marikina and San Mateo joined the cleanup drive. In Marikina, the barangays involved include Nangka, Tumana, and Malanday. In San Mateo, Banaba is the lone participating barangay.
In Banaba alone, the crowd of participants erupted in applause upon learning of the generous aid they would receive. In his address to the crowd before the cleanup drive, Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao said that the Php800 was at Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s recommendation.
“Our Master [Cheng Yen] has a lot of concern for you. She doesn’t want you all to see [the cash aid] as a kind of salary. This is not salary but aid for every family,” Siao said.
Leading the cleanup effort in Banaba, Tzu Chi volunteer Veneranda Funtaniel stresses the need to clear out the mud as soon as possible. The longer the mud stays, the more vulnerable the residents will be to disease. With children and the elderly pitching in, she ensures their safety while doing so.
“We should care for everyone cleaning in our community in San Mateo, especially the elderly because they might collapse under the unbearable heat. We should also assist the children if their tasks are too much for them to handle. We should all help each other because this is for our community,” Funtaniel explained.
CRP participant Rosalia Ancheta concurs with the importance of unity within the community. After cleaning her own house, the 59-year-old mother of five set out to assist the cleanup of the entire neighborhood.
“We want to clean our community as one community,” remarked Ancheta.
The CRP is expected to last between three and five days, depending on the amount of work necessary to clean the affected communities.
The local governments of Marikina and San Mateo pledged support for the cleanup drive in the participating barangays. In Banaba, dump trucks from the San Mateo local government arrived to transport inundated waste for processing.
Government involvement in the cleanup was more prevalent in Barangay Nangka, Marikina City. Along with heavy equipment like payloaders and dump trucks, the city government also sent firefighters and policemen to help out.
Aside from the streets of Nangka, the local high school was also the center of Tzu Chi’s cleanup efforts. Tzu Chi and non-Tzu Chi volunteers wasted no time prepping the school for the children to be able to resume their studies. The volunteers share the common interest of seeing children return to school as if nothing happened.
“It’s important [to clean this school] to help mitigate the trauma experienced by the locals. That’s the wish of our mayor. When children return to school, they shouldn’t feel like victims of flooding at all,” explained Ralph Espinosa, assistant head of the city government’s School Repair and Maintenance Office.
For Tzu Chi volunteer Richard Tan, overseeing the CRP in Nangka, the program is more than just to aid the affected families. He stresses that cleaning one’s house of mud must also mean cleaning one’s heart of afflictions. He hopes to see the spark of volunteerism reignite among the hearts of the locals whose lives have been guided by the teachings of Tzu Chi.
“As we’re blessed, we should help these people recover as soon as possible. We should also rekindle their volunteerism spirit so that they can continue to help others in need,” said Tan.