Friday, Mar 05

Lighting Up the Lamps in the Hearts of ‘Ondoy’ Victims

September 28, 2009


Tzu Chi Foundation, Philippines’ Typhoon Ondoy Relief

The worst flooding in the history of Metro Manila and nearby provinces happened on September 26, 2009 when Typhoon Ondoy (international codename Ketsana) unleashed its rage in the country, dumping a month’s worth of rain in just 24 hours.

 Like most of the populace, many local Tzu Chi volunteers were also affected by the typhoon. However, the volunteers still pushed through with their commitment to relieve the sufferings of their fellowmen affected by the deluge.

 *** Relieving Fear of Victims from Simultaneous Fire and Flood Disaster

The day after the storm, Tzu Chi volunteers immediately rushed to Agno Extension in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City where a fire broke out and consumed rows of shanties while floods were surging through the community during night-time. About five people were reportedly killed and nearly 500 families were left homeless.

Even with the absence of electricity, Tzu Chi volunteers persistently moved through the dark kitchens of the Still Thoughts Hall to cook hot vegetarian food for the affected residents in Tatalon. During lunchtime, about 800 victims in Tatalon tasted their first hot meal after the disaster.

Master Cheng Yen, Founder of Tzu Chi Foundation, wished for the flood and fire victims in Tatalon to quickly recover from the catastrophe and thus, called on the Tzu Chi volunteers to offer support with the clean-up and provide material aid and cash assistance.

On October 1, Tzu Chi handed out monetary aid of Php 3,000 and Php 5,000 to a total of 443 families from Barangay Tatalon to help them regain their lives after the fire and flood disasters tormented them.

On the next consecutive days, Tzu Chi deployed paid workers and rented heavy machineries such as pay loaders and dump trucks to start the clean-up operations in the Tatalon community. After five days, more than 200 tons of trashes were amassed from all over the neighbourhood, bringing the residents utmost happiness and relief for having the garbage cleared up just a few days after the storm.

On the other hand, eight more groups of Tzu Chi volunteers were mobilized to conduct surveys in other typhoon-hit cities namely San Juan, Mandaluyong, Manila, Cainta, Pasig, Marikina, and several areas in Quezon City.

Barangay Bagong Silangan in Quezon City had a big number of casualties during the typhoon. The surviving families were provided with funeral cash assistance by the foundation to ease their hardships over the loss of their loved ones

Tzu Chi volunteers also learned of the heartrending effects of the typhoon in the City of Marikina, one of the worst-hit cities in Metro Manila. Tzu Chi Philippines then launched extensive rehabilitation efforts in the three hard-hit barangays of Nangka, Malanday and Tumana starting on October 1.

*** Unprecedented Scale of Cash –for-Work Program to Cleanup Flood and Mud

The support that Tzu Chi Foundation rendered to the Marikeños this time was rather different from its previous relief efforts. With Master Cheng Yen’s blessing, Tzu Chi implemented a cash-for-work program to the residents of the three aforementioned barangays to eliminate the mud and garbage that nested these areas.

The program gave the thousands of typhoon-stricken residents in Marikina a chance to earn Php400 a day for cleaning their own houses and streets. It, thus, enabled Tzu Chi Foundation to accomplish their objectives to help the typhoon victims financially and for them to regain their normal lives; have their communities cleaned from mud and floodwaters, therefore preventing the spread of an epidemic; boost the economy of Marikina; revive the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan; and, awaken the sense of compassion inside the hearts of the distressed locals.

The feat has made a distinct mark in the hearts of the Marikeños and proved to be beneficial to the battered city. It is not only that the victims of the typhoon were able to lift themselves up from inopportune but are now also interlaced with a good affinity with Tzu Chi Foundation.

The cash-for-work lasted for about three weeks with a total of 84, 830 man-days mobilized to help with the clean-up process. Aside from the able-bodied workers, Tzu Chi also rented and purchased more heavy equipments to expedite the cleaning operations. About 25 units of pay loaders, backhoes and bulldozers, and about 100 units of dump trucks were utilized by the foundation.

On the celebration of the clean-up’s conclusion in Barangay Nangka on October 18, a flooding of the Marikina residents’ expression of heartfelt gratitude to Tzu Chi overflowed through songs, cheers, self-made placards, posters and even plaques. The day before the celebration, Sony Hernandez and his group of 50 disaster relief workers stayed awake the whole night to finish a simple token of gratitude for the foundation’s untiring support.

Henandez was all smiles when he handed over a plaque of appreciation to the volunteers but was tearful when Tzu Chi volunteers gave him a warm hug.

The plaque is our way to reciprocate our debt of good will to Tzu Chi who helped our community. The plaque is the only thing we can afford to give in expression of our most sincere thanks for the help that Tzu Chi gave to our barangay, Nangka. Because of them, we are now starting to recover from the tragedy that struck us,” Hernandez said.

*** All Out Help to Marikina Flood Victims

Aside from the cash-for-work program, Tzu Chi also distributed nutritious instant rice to more than 55,000 residents in Marikina; provided 5,000 pairs of boots that helped prevent residents to acquire diseases from constant immersion in mud; held free clinics and set up medical stations that attended to the health needs of about  8,000 residents. Free anti-tetanus injections were among the basic medical treatments given to the patients.

To prevent an outbreak of leptospirosis, 360,000 capsules of doxycycline hydrochloride were also donated to the local government that benefitted 60,000 Marikina residents. Emergency cash assistance and funeral monetary aid were also provided to needy families.

Knowing that all their possessions were washed away by the floods, about 5,000 high school students from Nangka and Malanday have also received school supplies, bags, new uniforms and valuable lessons from Master Cheng Yen to help their young minds recover from such tragic experience.

Tzu Chi also discovered after the clean-up that many residents were still unable to repair their typhoon-hit houses. To help them recover from their piteous state of having no decent home to take shelter in, Tzu Chi volunteers provided material aid and cash assistance to a total of 1,150 families in Barangay Nangka.

In expression of her indebtedness to Tzu Chi’s unconditional support, Marikina Mayor Ma. Lourdes Fernando flew with the Philippine Tzu Chi volunteers to Tzu Chi’s headquarters in Taiwan to give Master Cheng Yen a golden key to the city which symbolize Marikina City’s great honor and high esteem to her. It was also her ceremonial gesture of welcome and appreciation to the founder of Tzu Chi Foundation who bestowed Marikina with blessing and wisdom in time of need.

*** Passing on the Goodness

After about a month, the positive effects of Tzu Chi’s typhoon relief efforts were evident in Marikina. Tzu Chi’s humanitarian culture has also caught on the residents because of the Tzu Chi volunteers’ direct involvement with them during the relief period. Residents attested that Tzu Chi did not only improve the physical condition of their communities but also brought changes to their lives as most of them are gradually turning away from their wayward habits.

Tzu Chi’s recovery efforts in the city also seemed to have inspired and touched the Marikeños. Despite falling victims to a disaster, the residents of Marikina ignited the lamps in their hearts and unleashed their innate goodness, compassion, selflessness and desire to be one with Tzu Chi volunteer in helping others in need.

After witnessing for themselves the selflessness of Master Cheng Yen and nobility of Tzu Chi Foundation, many residents vowed to serve the foundation by signing up to be volunteers. After undergoing Tzu Chi’s Filipino Volunteers’ Training Camp in November and December 2009, these Marikeños now actively and wholeheartedly give Tzu Chi their services by helping certified Tzu Chi volunteers in carrying out relief missions in different cities.