Recalling hope in times of despair, Ormoc’s Great Love villagers celebrated Buddha Day, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi Day with fervor. The larger human formation was a result of more people inspired to help after Tzu Chi helped them following Tropical Storm Urduja (Kai-Tak).
The program also honored Tzu Chi’s staunchest allies in spreading love and care to those in need.
Great Love villagers in Ormoc City on May 13 recalled how Tzu Chi came to their aid after a disaster, namely Tropical Storm Urduja (Kai-Tak).
Marching across the grounds, a group of villagers raised their shovels and victorious fists. “We were affected by Urduja! Tzu Chi came and helped us! We thank Master Cheng Yen!” they chanted in their native tongue with great zeal. Their fellow villagers, sitting in the formation and sharing the same sentiment, chanted with the group.
The Great Love City, a village of some 2,000 families, faced its test of resilience when Urduja’s torrential rain on December 2017 inundated homes. As most of the residents are survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, the disaster felt like a sequel to them. Tzu Chi volunteers proceeded with all speed to the village to provide much-needed aid.
Five months after Urduja, a grateful community rallied to celebrate Buddha Day, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi Day. Tzu Chi volunteers from Manila, who still oversaw the preparations, didn’t need to tell the locals what to do.
Just the opposite. The locals told the volunteers what they wanted to do.
From a single human block in previous celebrations, this year’s three-in-one event saw two blocks, comprising 1,344 Great Love villagers. Overall attendance reached an estimated 2,500, with guests of honor including Great Love villagers from Kananga, government officials, non-government representatives, and local spectators. The two blocks formed the words “Tzu Chi” under the soft light of hundreds of candles, a simple display with a solemn meaning.
Spending her summer in Ormoc, Paulyn Jessa Repollo witnessed the solemnity of the three-in-one event. Despite the event being Buddhist in nature, she didn’t feel out of place considering that nearly all participants were non-Buddhist like her.
“They don’t care if you’re Buddhist or Catholic. That’s what makes this so beautiful,” says Repollo, a resident of Quezon City.
Thirty Tzu Chi volunteers also from Quezon City, as well as Marikina City and San Mateo, Rizal, joined the event. Elisa Acedera left her store in Barangay Tumana, Marikina City closed just to feel the distinction of a three-in-one event in Ormoc. Loss of profit is a small price to pay for an experience of a lifetime.
“This place is filled with joy. The villagers of the Great Love City are very much united,” Acedera remarked.
The program also recognized the deeds of individuals and groups who went above and beyond the call of duty to help those in need. Among the recipients of certificates of appreciation is Cheryl Batuan, chairman of Barangay Liloan where the village is located. The sincere hearts of her constituents made her feel Buddha’s spirit gracing the celebration.
“I’m excited and very happy. The event was solemn, as if Buddha himself was there,” remarks Batuan.
There were another group of heroes recognized for their selfless service: the mothers. After singing “Children of the Earth,” the children of the Great Love City scattered to give roses to their mothers.
Ofelia Ruiz’s legs failed to form properly at birth. She lives her life at half the average height of a human adult, yet her children raced toward her and gave her a warm hug.
“I’m happy that my children greeted me this Mother’s Day. My heart feels very light,” Ruiz said.
Angels and demons
Ormoc’s first three-in-one event in 2016 featured an interpretation of a dharma master’s journey. In 2017, the event showcased the Drum and Bell performance using pots and empty water jugs.
This year, volunteers made the “Gate of Hell” based on the teachings of Dharma Master Cheng Yen. The brief skit portrayed the eternal punishment awaiting the living who refuse to cease with their wrongful ways, namely stealing and drinking alcohol. According to the teachings, those who have been casted in the flames of hell would be nigh impossible to save. As such, Tzu Chi volunteers must act as “angels,” protecting the living from the whispers of the devil and guiding them to the correct path.
Ormoc volunteer Danilo Daligdig played the thief. Desperate for food, he heeded the devil’s words and stole the woman’s bag. Unfortunately, this gave the devil a reason to drag him into hell where he faced eternal whipping.
“I don’t mind playing the thief, as long as people realize that stealing is wrong. After all, God is watching all the time,” Daligdig says.
Participants and spectators alike indeed learned a valuable lesson.
“I admired [the volunteers’] way of reiterating the importance of kindness,” said Daisy Ann Recasana, a Great Love villager.