After providing hot meals to the fire victims at Parola from February 8 to 10, Tzu Chi returned on February 12 to bring relief to the 1,955 residents affected by the blaze on February 7.
Tzu Chi volunteers brought not just physical, but emotional relief to the fire victims as well.
Tzu Chi’s love and care continues to extend to the residents of the Parola compound on February 12 as fire relief distributions in Pedro Guevara Elementary School in Manila benefitted a total of 1,955 families.
The relief activity followed the three-day distribution of hot meals to the victims on February 8 to 10. Among the relief items distributed include donated clothes, dinnerware, and 20 kilos of Taiwan rice.
Residents brought their recyclable PET bottles and turned them over to Tzu Chi volunteers as their way of helping the foundation’s Environmental Protection program.
One of those who handed over a sizable amount of recyclable materials was 53 year-old Evelyn Prado. She shares that she has collected numerous recyclable bottles for some days prior to the relief aid distribution held on Sunday.
“It’s my own way of giving back to Tzu Chi. Even though I would normally sell these at the junk shop, I decided to bring them here instead so that I can help,” she says.
Prado is no stranger to fires in the area. Having made it through a total of four fires ever since settling in 1994, she hopes that this time will be the last. She lost her daughter and a grandchild in a fire that razed the compound back in 2013.
“To be honest, I’m not sure I want to go back to where my house used to be. But where can we go? Finding a place to live without having to pay for too much is hard; not to mention, it’s also expensive. I don’t want to borrow money just so I can move my family out of the area and look for another place to live and be in debt at the same time,” she adds.
Her daily earnings of Php150 as a rice cake vendor aren’t enough to sustain her family of four, as well as her own parents. Upon receiving the 20-kilo sack of rice along with the basic necessities that Tzu Chi gave to the fire survivors, she is very grateful.
“I hope you can continue helping out those in need. Tzu Chi is always welcome here to Parola, regardless of what happens,” she ends.
During the program, the Department of Social Welfare & Development (DSWD) Officer-in-charge for the Manila chapter, Nanet Tanyag, came forward in order to express their gratitude to Tzu Chi.
“We want to extend our gratitude to Tzu Chi, for coming by to help out our fire victims here at Parola. On behalf of the Mayor of Manila, we thank you for helping out the Parola residents in their time of need,” she shares during a short interlude in the program.
For 57-year-old Jocelyn Villareal, the February 7 fire is an experience that she does not wish to repeat. During the program, she had become emotional at the ‘Prayer’, which does not mention any single religion but instead wishes for peace of mind, a harmonious society, and a disaster-free world for everyone present.
“I couldn’t help but cry during the prayer, because right then and there I felt that there were still people who cared for us,” she shares.
She has lived in the area since 1988, due to the cheap rent available to her family. It is her first time to have gone through an ordeal like this. She hopes that it will be her last, as well.
“I don’t know where we’ll live after this. The only reason why we’d stayed here in Parola for so long is because we’ve already established our lives here, and we have no other place to go,” she adds.
Among those assisting in the relief operations is Philippine Army reservist Sgt. Randy Romero. His troops are stationed at the Delpan Evacuation Center.
“We took this chance to be able to help out our less-fortunate brothers and sisters, especially during these trying times. We also came here in order to provide additional manpower and security around the perimeter,” he shares.