Almost four years after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated Tacloban City, the reconstruction of Villa Babiano’s house is yet to be finished. Behind the concrete houses in Barangay 57 White Lane in Tacloban City, the Babiano family’s home lay without a door; tarpaulins and iron sheets serve as its ceilings and walls.
Although they received Php15,000 cash assistance from Tzu Chi Foundation in the aftermath of the super typhoon, the prices of building materials at that time skyrocketed that they only managed to buy enough to put up the back part of their house.
Over time, the needs of their four children grew more urgent. Two of the Babiano kids are currently in high school, while one is in elementary. The eldest son eventually stopped going to college.
With the Php300 income that her husband gets from driving a pedicab and the Php2,000 monthly allowance Villa receives as a volunteer health worker in their village, reconstructing their home has to take the backseat.
Regardless, the state of her house is the least of Villa’s concern.
Having witnessed hundreds of people suffer from diseases or extreme poverty, she felt her own burden much easier to carry.
Villa was among the first local volunteers of Tzu Chi in Tacloban City. She was one of the first locals to adopt the practice of saving coins daily to help the needy as the Tzu Chi volunteers have taught during their initial relief work here.
In early 2014, when residents of Barangay Sampaguita, a village next to hers, began collecting recyclable materials around the community in support of Tzu Chi’s recycling advocacy, she was there with them.
Today, she is diligent in promoting Tzu Chi’s activities around her neighborhood and among her fellow volunteer health workers. She has over 40 families who regularly donate PHP30 every month. She goes around her village to visit them, discuss with them about Tzu Chi’s activities, and encourage them to do good deeds, no matter how small.
“We believe that if only people will follow Master’s [Cheng Yen] teachings, the world will be better. There will be no more disasters. That’s’ why when I heard they needed volunteers, I did not think twice about joining,” she says.
Her dedication in volunteering has also inspired a change in her entire family. At home, they keep a coin bank where they put in little amounts of donation every day.
Nel Sylas, 27, the eldest of the Babiano siblings, had to stop going to college due to financial difficulties. He took a short-course on photography instead and spends his free time volunteering alongside his mother.
“With my mother’s dedication in volunteering for Tzu Chi, I was also inspired to volunteer so that we can also contribute. Since I don’t do much at home, it’s better to volunteer here. Rather than stay at home and watch TV. It’s a lot better because I get to help others,” says Nel Sylas.
Villa also recalls how her husband, 61-year-old Rogelio, was initially very strict about her whereabouts. He used to impose a curfew on his wife and used up most of his money on gambling.
“He wouldn’t give me money before. He was self-absorbed and his life only revolved around him,” says Villa.
Rogelio was also cynical about the idea of helping others at first.
“My husband used to say, ‘Why do I have to help others when I am only a pedicab driver? My income isn’t even enough for us.’ But I told him, if you constantly think that you do not have enough to give, then you will definitely have nothing to give. But if you give and keep your thoughts positive, you will never run out of things to offer,” says Villa.
Listening to his wife’s stories about Tzu Chi and the teachings of Master Cheng Yen eventually opened Rogelio’s heart.
Today, he would even give Villa money for the transportation fare so she could attend Tzu Chi’s volunteer activities.
Rogelio has also taken the practice of picking up discarded plastic bottles he comes across in the streets. From his wife, he learned how Master Cheng Yen is pushing for everyone to practice recycling. Selling the recyclables is also Tzu Chi’s way of raising funds for its charity and medical programs.
“Although they are only a few when we collected them, when they accumulate they can be sold and help with Tzu Chi’s funds for their missions,” says Rogelio.
Almost four years after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), local Tzu Chi volunteers in Tacloban City redefines living a rich life. For Villa, it doesn’t mean a life of comfort or a beautiful home but in learning to be satisfied with one has and finding an opportunity to serve despite their own circumstances.
“We don’t feel poor because we are still able to help the needy. They say you’re not poor when you have a pure heart. It’s like my life has a new meaning and direction,” Villa ends.
Villa Babiano stands in front of her family’s house in Barangay 57 White Lane in Tacloban City. Four years after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the reconstruction of their house is yet to be completed. Regardless, Villa fulfills her duties as a Tzu Chi volunteer despite her own life struggles.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Villa Babiano is a volunteer health worker in their village. She receives a Php2,000 monthly allowance.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Nel Sylas Babiano, 27, had to stop his college education due to financial difficulties. He spends his free time volunteering for Tzu Chi instead.Currently, he helps other volunteers in cleaning and preparing Tzu Chi’s future Recycling Center in Tacloban City. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Rogelio Babiano drives a pedicab for a living. Initially, he was strict about his wife’s activities. Today, after hearing good things about Tzu Chi from his wife, he began to support his wife’s volunteering works. He even gives her money for the transportation fare so she can attend volunteer activities. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】