TACLOBAN CITY- An estimated 40,000 people coming from the cities of Palo and Tanauan and this city joined in the thanksgiving and prayer vigil organized by the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation on January 19 this year.
The huge crowd, gathered at the Leyte Sports Development Center, benefited the benevolence of the said Taiwan-based foundation which was the first group to implement the cash-for-work program among typhoon victims.
They later gave financial assistance to families hard hit by the storm ranging from P8,000 up to P15,000.
Alfred Li, the 60-year old chief executive officer of the Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines, expressed his delight in a phone interview with Leyte Samar Daily Express that the people, largely of Tacloban gathered with their volunteers on that rainy day, even though they were informed that no money or items will be distributed to them.
For him, it showed the people’s strong sense of gratitude, a gesture that made them “very lovable”. The people were one with the Buddhists as well as officials like Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez and councillors.
City Vice Mayor Jerry “Sambo” Yaokasin, in a text message, exclaimed “Miracles do happen.”
“Despite the bad weather and being informed that no cash or any material will be given, they filled the whole grandstand.” He viewed such event as manifestation of “only one thing in their heart (that is) to express their gratitude that in their time of need, Tzu Chi was there.”
The Tzu chi Foundation, which is in existence in the Philippines for twenty years now, has been rendering humanitarian services to people affected by natural calamities across the archipelago regardless of their political persuasion or religious affiliation.
It is also extending help in Bohol that was struck by a strong quake in October last year. However, due to the enormous destruction that the supertyphoon Yolanda has done in Tacloban and some towns in Leyte, Tzu Chi Foundation stayed much longer in these areas to provide aid to those hit by the storm.
At least 66,000 families in Tacloban City, Palo and Tanauan combined were given cash assistance and relief items by the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, this is on top of the 190 Taiwan-made pre-fabricated classrooms that its volunteers have built in places severely affected by supertyphoon Yolanda November 8 last year.
This week, the organization constructed two tents for the Sto. Niño Church in Tacloban which will be used by the churchgoers during masses once the reconstruction or major repair of the church edifice is done, tentatively commencing middle of February this year.
The Taiwan-based Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, built in 1966 by a Buddhist nun now called Master Cheng Yen while she was yet 29 years old, is guided by the virtues of “compassion, simplicity, humility and gratefulness.” It carries out its charitable mission with the point of view of being “grateful for the opportunity to help”.
And like other organizations of similar pursuits, it operates on true sense of volunteerism, where fund used to help the people in need is also being solicited from bighearted donors.
As of now, Tzu Chi has about a million members in 22 countries, a hundred thousand of which are in the Philippines receiving instructions for the various outreach programs from its three branches in the country that is Manila, Cebu and Zamboanga. It was established in the Philippines in 1994 and has gone to around seventy countries to do humanitarian missions.
Tzu Chi Foundation is entertaining the possibility of opening a branch in Tacloban City depending, however, on whether there will be individuals who are willing to do volunteer work for Tzu Chi, spend their own money in going to places of assignment without neglecting their responsibilities to their family, without necessarily converting to Buddhism.