Home Featured Stories Gateways A shower of love for QC fire victims

A shower of love for QC fire victims

Thursday, 29 December 2016 17:5 PM | ARTICLE BY | JAMAICA DIGO
Eleanor Cantonjos gratefully receives the cup of hot coffee that Tzu Chi volunteers prepared for the fire victims in Quezon City on December 29. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

Story Highlights

  • Tzu Chi Foundation conducted a second relief aid distribution to the victims of a fire incident in Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City on December 29. A total of 576 fire-affected families received basic household necessities such as a cooking pot and a sack of 20-kilo Taiwan rice.

Two days after the infernal fire that devoured a residential community in Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City love and care continue to pour for the fire survivors.

On December 29, volunteers of Tzu Chi Foundation arrive early at the disaster site to serve the fire victims with hot coffee and bread. Later, they also use Tzu Chi’s Mobile Kitchen to cook vegetarian lunch meals.

Grateful smiles are pasted on the fire victims’ faces as they receive their warm breakfast.

“We’re very happy because after the fire, we lost everything. I thought we would never be happy again. But then you came, you lifted our spirits because you provided our basic needs. That’s why I’m really grateful that you are here to provide us support,” fire victim Eleanor Cantonjos says.

Apart from the sumptuous food they regularly enjoy, Cantonjos is also thankful for the six units of portable toilets that Tzu Chi had rented for them. Before this, the fire victims were going to gasoline stations or the nearby establishments and asking to be allowed to use their toilets.

“This morning when I woke up and saw the portable toilet, I was so happy. I jumped in joy because we finally have something to use. We were taking a bath outside (since after the fire),” shares Cantonjos, 48. “Yesterday, I really could not go to a restroom. I kept it in because there was nothing that I could use to hide me.”

Meanwhile, the local government’s clearing operations in the disaster area continues. Along with police officers, the cleanup group is also among those who benefit from the breakfast prepared by Tzu Chi volunteers.

Maria Velia Villasin is one of the workers employed to join the cleanup. As she is lining up to receive her share of hot coffee and bread, she expresses how proud she is to see the Tzu Chi volunteers in the area.

“I’ve been a donor for Tzu Chi for three years now. There were also times when we join Tzu Chi’s relief operations,” Villasin says. “We know that Tzu Chi is always there to help. We have proven it a number of times. Wherever there is a need, as long as Tzu Chi found out about it, whether its flood victims or fire victims, they will be there to help.”

“Today, I feel happy because it’s not just through my job that I can help these fire victims. I know that I am also a part of Tzu Chi’s help to them as a donor,” she adds.

In the afternoon, Tzu Chi volunteers gather the fire victims for a relief activity. Held in front of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and just across from the fire site, the event distributes basic necessities like sleeping mat, blanket, detergent bar, eating utensils, cooking pot, 20-kilo sacks of Taiwan rice, two pairs of shoes, a kid’s bag, stationery and school supplies among others to a total 576 fire-affected families.

Vilma Quiling appreciates the Tzu Chi volunteers’ presence since day one of the tragedy. Although grieved that she lost her grandmother to the fire, she says there is still so much to look forward to.

“We were very touched by the help that Tzu Chi extended to us,” she says. “Since the fire died down until now that we are starting to get back on our feet, Tzu Chi has been here, continuously helping and supporting us. Tzu Chi’s gifts are really big help to us.”

To some of the fire victims, the relief activity on this day brings them back to five years ago. In 2011, a large fire had also consumed the houses in this community. As they have done today, Tzu Chi was also among the first to respond to the victims’ needs.

The memory of the volunteers in blue and white extending their compassion and aid is still clear in the mind of 60-year-old Prudencia Tinonas. She regrets that the eco-friendly blanket she received from Tzu Chi during that first relief activity was burned to the ground along with her house and a small variety store this time.

“We were at a loss as to where to ask for help because we really don’t have anywhere to go,” says Tinonas. “Then you came. After many years, you came back to extend help again that’s why we’re really very grateful and happy because you’re the only group to give us this much aid.”

Her neighbor, 56-year-old Aurea Majorenez, agrees. “Although we lost our homes, we can get by in the coming days because you provided us with rice and with our daily needs. We’re really proud that we met Tzu Chi in this life,” she says.

But more than the material goods that will soon be gone, Majorenez acknowledges that the beautiful and uplifting teachings from the Tzu Chi volunteers are what they will treasure the most.

“The things you taught us like loving our fellowmen and sharing our love and blessings, unconditionally– these all mean a lot. You may leave us after this relief activity but all the things we learned from you will remain in our hearts,” says Majorenez.

Before the relief activity wraps up on this day, many of the fire victims pulled out coins and bills from their pockets to donate to others who might be in need. They also vowed not to eat meat and fish products on January 11, 2017 in support of Tzu Chi’s Earth Ethical Eating Day advocacy, which aims to spread awareness on the role of vegetarianism in reducing the effects of Global Warming and Climate Change.

Little by little, the tragedy that befell the residents of Barangay Pinyahan is turning into a blessing.

Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2016 17:5 PM

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