Tzu Chi Foundation’s local volunteers in Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City responded to the needs of fire victims in their area on April 27. The relief distribution benefitted 29 families who lost their homes in separate fire incidents in Roque Extension and Sampalucan Streets.
Unable to escape quickly, three members of one family were killed in the fire at Roque Extension. Tzu Chi extended burial cash assistance.
Ashes, ruins, and lit candles tell the tragedy that struck a community in Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City.
At midnight on April 23, a couple’s heated argument led the wife to start the fire that razed the neighborhood for an hour. Thirty-five families lost their homes and possessions. The heartbreak was twice as painful for Rocelia Villaruz who lost three members of her family in the fire. Trapped in their burning house, her mother, younger sister, and a nephew died of suffocation.
“If it’s only the house that got burned and nobody died then it would have been easier for us to move forward but it’s hard to accept what had happened,” 39-year-old Villaruz says, crying. “Our family is now incomplete.”
Erlinda Picoy’s house stands right behind Rocelia’s. She recalls how difficult it was to escape the blaze with houses standing too close to each other, leaving no space for alleys.
“There’s no other way around here because right behind is another house and on my left is someone else’s house as well,” Picoy, 56, says, standing in the ruins of her house. “That’s what made it difficult to escape because if there were enough alleys then we could have run away easily.”
Tzu Chi volunteers extended assistance to the fire victims on April 27. Twenty-four affected families received sleeping mats, clothes, hygiene kit, a pair of slippers, and a 20-kilo sack of Taiwan rice. Tzu Chi also gave Php3,000 burial assistance for each of the casualties.
“We always say that life is impermanent. It’s just that when we are faced with it, it’s beyond sad,” reflects Tzu Chi volunteer Woon Ng. “The money [we gave the family] may not be much but we hope that it will tide them over in this difficult time.”
The presence of local volunteers in the area made for a quick disaster response.
Soledad Cuatriz, 62, lives just across the fire site. Immediately after the disaster, she and fellow volunteers surveyed the situation and needs of the victims.
“They are also our neighbors and we feel for them, that’s why we volunteered to help so that they may be able to receive relief goods,” shares Cuatriz.
Just as the volunteers were on their way home from conducting the survey on April 24, they saw fire trucks rushing toward the nearby community of Sampalucan. It turned out, a fire was also razing the area. Five families were left homeless.
Feeling for the victims’ plight, Tzu Chi volunteers extended relief assistance to them on April 27.
“This is a big help, especially the sack of rice and the sleeping mat because we’ve lost our bed in the fire. I’m very grateful to Tzu Chi. They are always prepared to extend help in times of need,” says fire victim Verbena Bungcaras, 38.