In line with the spirit of giving during the holiday season, 94 Tzu Chi volunteers and staff conducted a relief distribution at Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, Binondo to 1,255 homeless living around that area in Manila on the morning of December 16, 2018. Distributed goods included clothes, towels, food and utensils.
To some, home is the comfort after a long tiring day, to many, it is where moments immortalize themselves for the future, and to others, it may be something that they haven’t experienced for a long time. Every year, Tzu Chi sets out into different communities around Manila to hand out stubs to the homeless and conduct a relief to provide the warmth of a home they truly long for.
Most of the participants knew of this event and their anticipation every year grows stronger as Tzu Chi never failed to deliver. On the night of December 14, volunteers go through places in Manila with the goal of finding 1,000 street dwellers to hand out tickets that will serve as an invitation for the relief on December 16.
Early morning of Sunday, the volunteers start setting up the tents, and barricades at the Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo, Manila to cater to the indigents that will come to receive goods. Volunteers form Soler Volunteer Fire Prevention Center assisted with the set up while some Tzu Chi volunteers held a briefing for the short program before the distribution.
Roaming around the streets of Tondo, 21-year old Irene Padilla survived with her 2-year old and 6-month old children with the little income her husband earns as a tricycle driver. Her parent’s separation resulted to her leaving home at 17 years old.
“Last year, I also received a stub from Tzu Chi and what they’re doing is really a big help because this does not happen to us often. I hope that they could help a lot more people like me with their generous and kind hearts,” said Padilla.
Equipped with his walking rod, carton and a sack full of his personal belongings, Virgilio Buenaobra can’t help but be thankful for the goods that he will receive that morning as he awaits his turn in line with other participants.
His only living family member is his brother, “I never go to him so that I won’t be a burden to his family. I live a simple life wandering around the streets with my things and when it’s night time, I could just set up anywhere and sleep,” Buenaobra narrated.
He shared that he chose not to stay at his brother’s house as he feels the need to fend for himself because his brother is a mere carpenter.
“But everything I received, I always give it to him. I don’t sell them again or anything like that because if I do, what good would it bring? I think selling it just reduces its value in the first place. The money you get from selling isn’t going to be worth more than the happiness of the person you shared it with,” he added.
Helen Gan, a volunteer for 18 years expressed her sentiments towards the homeless.
“During Christmas season, we are all very happy and joyous but we can see that there are people less fortunate than us who possibly don’t feel the same way because of their situation. In order for us to share the blessings we receive, we give them tokens or gifts that they need in their daily lives,” said Gan.
Children ages 5 and up were separated in a different area for a less chaotic, and more organized relief. Geraldine Chua led the activity with the children as she taught them songs and dances that they could enjoy.
She was always present in the homeless relief activity every year and to her, it is more than just providing relief goods.
“We want to give these people the importance and validation they desire. We want them to feel that we value them and that they are important enough to receive such blessings. And that an organization such as Tzu Chi will not abandon them,” said Chua.