Tzu Chi volunteers inspired Cecelia Beltran, a retail store owner in Barangay Liloan, Ormoc City, to stop selling liquors and cigarettes among her neighbours. Today, the businesswoman encourages her customers to leave their vices and change their ways instead.
With the livelihood provided by Tzu Chi Foundation in their village, Cecelia Beltran’s store also benefitted. Now, with more residents earning more money, her profits have grown even without selling cigarettes and liquors.
Inspired by a conversation with a Tzu Chi volunteer, a store owner in Barangay Liloan, Ormoc City has decided to stop selling liquor and cigarettes to her neighbours.
Cecelia Beltran opened a small variety store to augment her Php3,000 monthly salary from working as barangay health worker and her husband, Apolinario’s, Php4,000 income from dispatching passenger jeepneys (vehicle). The family’s retail store offers food, hygienic items and basic household items at affordable prices. Majority of the residents in this village buys their needs in Cecelia’s store since the public market is a 30-minute ride away.
“I sold liquor and cigarettes because those are the most marketable to the people here,” discloses Cecelia. She adds that in less than a week, she earns revenue of Php200 for every box of liquor and Php100 for every ream of cigarette.
With these earnings, the couple can effortlessly provide the food needs of the family and the school expenses of their 22-year-old daughter, Jelly Bee.
However, when Cecelia crossed paths with Tzu Chi volunteers in their village, everything began to change.
Tzu Chi volunteers frequent Barangay Liloan in Ormoc City to monitor the land preparations for the installation of 2,000 prefabricated houses for the typhoon-displaced families in this town. The volunteers are using a space in Cecelia’s store as storage for the bamboo sticks, which will be used for the housing project and are produced by the residents here. Cecelia’s daughter, Jelly Bee, is supervising the inventory of the bamboo sticks.
Once, during a conversation, a Tzu Chi volunteer told Cecelia “Alcohol and cigarettes are both harmful to a person’s health. When you sell them to your neighbours, it’s almost like you are leading them to illnesses.”
Hearing this brought Cecelia to the realization that apart from earning money, she also ought to consider how her business could affect her customers. “What good will huge profits bring if I am causing harm to my own people?” she muses.
Immediately after that conversation, Cecelia made the choice of taking down liquors and cigarettes from her catalogue of goods.
“Instead of using their money for their vices, my neighbours will now be able to save it for their more important needs,” Cecelia happily shares. “Also, the youth here will not be inclined to try smoking or drinking liquor.”
Today, whenever someone would ask her for cigarettes or alcohol, Cecelia will persistently encourage that person to turn back from vices and change his ways instead.
Although she no longer sells their “most marketable” items, Cecelia’s store still earns well thanks to Tzu Chi Foundation’s livelihood program for her neighbours.
As part of the preparations for the temporary housing project, the Buddhist group mobilized the residents in Barangay Liloan to produce bamboo sticks for the bricks that will serve as floorings of the prefabricated houses. The organization also employed workers to build prefabricated classrooms to serve as shades for the team of volunteers who will install the houses.
Before Tzu Chi Foundation came, the residents here usually earn a daily income of Php100-150 from planting and harvesting sugar canes. Whenever their money could not afford it, they resort to loaning their needs from Cecelia’s store. Now, with the additional income provided by Tzu Chi Foundation however, this has been a rare occurrence. “The people here now have money to buy their needs from my store. I am able to earn better now,” Cecelia informs.