Sunday, Oct 17

Inspiring Others to Repay the Favor

June 18, 2015 | Jonas Trinidad

Tzu Chi volunteer Raquel Tresvalles and her mother Ursula Tabilog do the "gan'en" ("Give Thanks") pose to thank Tzu Chi Foundation for the long-term help they receive. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • Giving back to others is one of the highest forms of charity anyone can perform. Many Tzu Chi volunteers became an inspiration for others to return the favor.

  • The inspiration doesn’t necessarily have to come from a Tzu Chi volunteer. In the case of Tzu Chi volunteer Raquel Tresvalles, it’s her mother who wants to return the favor for all the years being cared for despite poverty.


Raquel Tresvalles never got the chance to be a teacher. Her mother said she lacked eligibility for civil service, as required by public schools. Instead, she devotes her time in spreading Tzu Chi’s compassion within her community in San Mateo, Rizal.

For her, she owes the Buddhist group a big favor. She had more pressing matters that Tzu Chi helped to an extent.

“Tzu Chi helped my bedridden mother,” said Tresvalles. “She receives rice every month as a long-term beneficiary of Tzu Chi. They also helped my father in burial assistance when he died in 2014. The same goes for my son who is Grade 10 at Nangka High School, as he was admitted as a scholar of Tzu Chi Foundation.”

Tresvalles is one of hundreds of volunteers that rose up to help the foundation, just as it helped them in their hour of need. Tzu Chi helped them reel from the country’s worst disasters without seeking anything in return.

So even without asking, individuals like Tresvalles would always join when the foundation needs volunteers. In May, she is one of the thousands to fulfill the required number of people for the human block formations, one of the highlights of the recent Buddha Day celebration.

In exchange for their participation, volunteers receive a 20-kilo sack of rice straight from Taiwan. Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Alfredo Li, during his visit with the recipients at San Mateo, Rizal, said the Philippines is a major recipient of rice from Master Cheng Yen. He assured them that the full 20 kilos would go straight to the recipient through the foundation.

Most of the recipients hailed from San Mateo, Rizal and Barangay Tumana, Marikina, which are both prone to flash floods. Those times when Tzu Chi Foundation came to their aid inspired Elena Quiñones to be a Tzu Chi volunteer, an instrument to spread compassion. It was in Tzu Chi that she changed for the better.

“In the past, I used to play Bingo,” said Quiñones. “Not anymore because I involved myself in volunteer work for Tzu Chi.”

Gambling activities and other dishonest means of generating income are prohibited under the Ten Tzu Chi Precepts. Instead, the precept promotes honest earning through hard work to help ensure stability and security for the family.


It Starts With You

Motivating people to take decisive action has to start somewhere. In the case of the foundation, it starts with itself.

Although brief, Li found time to share the story of a Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victim in Ormoc among the recipients in San Mateo. The foundation came across an old woman whose livelihood is taking care of livestock. Volunteers immediately mobilized to build her a new home, even if they weren’t going to be paid for the extra time. However, this act of love motivated locals to pitch in, as well.

But Tzu Chi’s help didn’t end there. Li added that the foundation would also shoulder the cost of education for her grand daughter, down to the fare expenses.

Quiñones encouraged her fellow volunteers at a recycling plant in Apitong, Marikina to do more than just segregate paper from plastics.

“When they asked how they can return the favor to Tzu Chi because they were helped, I said: ‘If you want, aside from recycling, you can donate money to help others,” said Quiñones. “I have around 40 donors, [whose donations] I collect monthly.”

Meanwhile, Tresvalles’ hard work as a Tzu Chi volunteer was enough to move her mother, Ursula Tabilog, to tears.

“My daughter is hard-working,” said Tabilog, largely paralyzed due to an earlier stroke. “She doesn’t leave me alone. My other sons can’t offer much help. They’re also poor.”

Tzu Chi volunteer Sedy Barrameda was inspired by Tabilog’s fighting spirit. “When I first saw the mother, I felt pity because when she was interviewed, even with an illness, she really wants to continue the fight in life. She wants to get better since her daughter is the only one helping her.”

Aside from rice, Tabilog also receives groceries and medications monthly as assistance. She also has a wheelchair courtesy of Tzu Chi.


Nothing is Too Small

Something as simple as 20 kilos of rice is a big help for recipients like Angelito Rosario of Barangay Tumana, Marikina.

“Think about it,” he said. “How many kilos? It’s good for a number of days.” Rosario also received rice last year.

Tzu Chi volunteers always reiterate that no form of help is too small. Although a larger donation is highly appreciated, just a peso or two from every Filipino will go a long way in helping the needy find relief. Making this a daily habit allows more people to receive the same, ideal amount of compassion and relief.

  • Tzu Chi Foundation CEO Alfredo Li shares a couple of stories with the recipients at San Mateo, Rizal. Li arrived with a couple of executives from other Tzu Chi branches for a brief visit. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Recipients happily walk away with their respective sacks of rice. More than 1,100 sacks of rice were distributed in San Mateo, Rizal. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Rice recipients strike the "gan'en" ("Give Thanks") pose after receiving their sacks of rice. More than 800 sacks of rice were distributed in Barangay Tumana, Marikina. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Male volunteers help haul a cart filled with sacks of rice from multiple recipients as the distribution continues. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Recipients form a line to receive their rice in an orderly fashion, hardly minding the afternoon heat. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Angelito Rosario loads two sacks of rice onto his bicycle. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】