Tzu Chi Foundation on October 20 brought relief goods to the fire victims of Barangay Mauway, Mandaluyong City. Around 139 families received rice, clothes, and utensils among others.
It was here that volunteers saw that love helped the families survive the blaze and the hardships following it.
Florenda Virtudaso could only think of the fate of her 89-year-old mother had she left for church earlier on the day of the fire. Ready to go before lunch, she changed her mind because it was already late. She never knew that, in the afternoon, a fire would burn the place she called home for twenty years.
The monstrous fire in Barangay Mauway, Mandaluyong City first broke out on the afternoon of October 20.Reportedly caused by an unattended phone charger, the fire razed55 houses made of light materials and displaced156 families.
A week later, 51-year-old Florenda tearfully recalls the events.
“When someone shouted that there was a big fire, I rushed upstairs and pulled all the plugs. I still wanted to go back to get some important documents, especially my mother’s. But I’m really grateful that my child told me not to. Had I entered the house again, I would’ve been trapped,” she narrated.
But more than her safety, Florenda was more grateful that she was able to save her mother Columba from the fire.
“If I went (to church), I might not know if my mother would’ve been saved from the fire. Because all my children were outside, and they are still very young,” she continued.
Her family lives in the barangay’s covered court together with other affected families. But she worries about her mother’s condition in the evacuation center, especially because of her age.
“My plan is to bring her home to our province (in) Cagayan de Oro. For the rest of us, since we would still be given a place here, I’ll just pray to the Lord that we can recover. What’s important is that we’re not sick, especially my mother,” Florenda said.
For now, Florenda’s wish is to replace her mother’s eyeglasses lost in the fire.
Gina Larutama, 46 and a mother of six, shed tears when she remembered the fire.
“We were all there, it was after lunch. When they said (there’s a fire), I went out. Then I saw that the fire was two houses away from us. So we all ran outside. We couldn’t take anything with us,” said Gina.
With the meager income his husband makes from construction work and her eldest child working, Gina could only weep thinking about how her family would start from scratch.
“It’s so hard to move on. It would be tough to reconstruct the house, since the rebuilding would be on us,” Gina added.
Tzu Chi volunteers came to the aid of the fire victims. Relief goods such as rice, clothes, and utensils found their way to 139 families, Florenda and Gina’s families included.
“It’s a big help to us. We don’t need to buy these things anymore. When we move, I wouldn’t have to worry about it,” said Gina.
Material relief aside, Tzu Chi volunteers provided them with words of encouragement to help ease their suffering.
“From this disaster, it’s true that we were able to meet each other. But I hope from this disaster, they learn their lesson to be more mindful,” Tzu Chi volunteer Carmen Sy told the fire victims.