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Couple flies to Manila from the States to join Water Repentance Adaptation

November 30, 2019 | Jonas Trinidad

Couple Robert (foreground) and Conchita Say (behind, in gray) are from the U.S. who flew in to participate in the Water Repentance Text stage adaptation last November 30. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • Inspired by the teachings of Buddhism, couple Robert and Conchita Say made the 16-hour trip to Manila from San Francisco to join the rehearsals for the Water Repentance Text adaptation.


Robert and Conchita Say flew in from San Francisco on November 30 to join the Water Repentance Text rehearsal. The 16-hour flight barely makes them feel lagged, as they’ve been flying back and forth for years to visit their families. By the end of the rehearsals on December 1, they flew back to the United States and will come back for the performance.

Conchita’s mom is a Tzu Chi commissioner, who taught her to copy the Water Repentance text in a notebook whenever she has anxiety attacks in the states. It will take her 3 weeks to copy the whole text and it does calm her down. Both of them admitted that they are not familiar with Buddhist teachings since both are Catholics, but they are curious about Buddhism.

Their interest in Buddhism lead them to different sutra prayer groups in the states and the Philippines, which ended up with both joining the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) in the states since Conchita is a dentist.

“After years of searching, we eventually realized that Tzu Chi is the right way to walk the Bodhisattva path. In this Saha world, we have to apply the teachings of Buddhism in our real life.” Robert said.

 “Probably now I understand better what the sutra really is. But before we came, I asked a nun who said that it’s really hard to understand the Water Repentance Sutra. But then, it motivated me more to participate to be able to understand what the Water Repentance Text is all about,” said Conchita, who suffered from anemia and stress from time to time.

The couple was invited to join the stage adaptation last March, they were hesitant at first due to the distance from their home and Manila. But after some deliberations, they decided not to let go of this once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the Water Repentance Adaptation.

Reciting the text would often bring Robert to tears. Although not very fluent in Chinese, he’s been steadily learning the language to better understand the text. Together with the lessons learned from caring for their elderly in-laws, the text becomes much clearer.

“Through caring for our elderly parents was a good learning ground for us to learn more about human kindness and compassion that we need to have in this world,” said Robert.

“My mother is a Tzu Chi commissioner, but none of my siblings is following in her footsteps. So this year, I decided that I will follow her footsteps.” added Conchita.

Good deeds and filial piety are two immutable values in the teachings of Dharma Master Cheng Yen. Everyone regardless of race, color, gender, or religion must be able to help others in need and show love to their families. Sutras and texts like the Water Repentance Text expound on these values, further showing what is right or wrong. For Robert and Conchita, who has been practicing filial piety with their families during their time of need, they are definitely walking the path of Bodhisattva.

  • As the couple time in Manila is limited, they need all the guidance they can get especially from fellow participants. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Gina Lo (right) guide Conchita's hands position. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • A cluster of participants guilded by a Tzu Chi volunteer rehearse their sign language actions in a formation. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The couple raise their lotus flower candles along with everybody else at the end of the performance. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】