Apart from Buddha’s birthday, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi’s 53rd global anniversary, this year’s three-in-one celebration at the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus on May 12 celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Philippines chapter. The ceremony was held in the grounds in front of the newly-renovated Harmony Hall and Jing Si Hall.
This year’s three-in-one celebration in Manila commemorated another propitious milestone: Tzu Chi Philippines turning 25.
The Tzu Chi Great Love Campus on May 12 swelled with 1,411 Tzu Chi volunteers, scholars, Livelihood Training Program students, guests of honor, and support staff. In front of the newly-renovated Harmony Hall and Jing Si Hall, the human formation highlighted the Philippines chapter’s 25th anniversary.
The three-in-one celebration is held every second Sunday of May. It celebrates the birthday of the Buddha, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi’s 53rd global anniversary. Similar celebrations were also held in Leyte, Bohol, and Cebu.
Among the guests of honor include five Dharma Masters, two Catholic Nuns and 33 students from the Sisters of Mary School in Silang, Cavite, and Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) representative Michael Hsiu. TECO is the de facto embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the country.
“In my past two assignments, I joined in many of Tzu Chi’s activities. Wherever disasters strike in the Philippines, Tzu Chi is always the first to arrive to offer immediate help,” said Hsiu, who served as TECO representative in 2004 and 2011.
Tzu Chi began its operations in the country in 1994 with volunteer Linda Chua serving as its first CEO. From a handful of volunteers, the chapter has grown large enough to see action in various parts of the country. Among its notable achievements include its first medical mission in Baguio City, rehabilitation of Tacloban City following Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), and the successful surgeries of three pairs of conjoined twins.
In 2003, former conjoined twins Lea and Rachel Awel underwent separation surgery at the Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital in Taiwan. Since then, the Kalinga-born twins have been indebted to the foundation for changing their lives for the better. They joined their fellow scholars in the human formation, inspired by the teachings they constantly learn under Tzu Chi’s guidance.
“I feel blessed to be able to join in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once you get a hold of the light and water, you feel like your sins have been washed away,” said Lea.
“We’re fortunate to have been separated [from being conjoined] and still receiving help [from Tzu Chi]. Joining this celebration is the least we can do,” said Rachel.
In 2005, Tzu Chi acquired the former compound of the Sisters of Mary School in Bacood, Sta. Mesa, Manila and repurposed it as a livelihood and logistics hub. Renamed the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus, it held its first three-in-one activity in 2006. The campus is currently undergoing a long-term development plan to improve its facilities for the benefit of Tzu Chi’s beneficiaries.
Sr. Gertrudes Dayag, SM expressed her astonishment at the way Tzu Chi breathed a second life at the former school building. She remembered it also having dormitories and classrooms during its former days.
“Even though we’re no longer here, this building still remained useful and even improved. I recall this building having classrooms back in the day. But with these [renovations], more people can be helped,” said Dayag.