Rain on the night after the start of the cash relief program (CRP) had nearly undone the cleanup efforts of the participants. Despite this, they never lost heart, instead continuing to work on the second day with the same zeal, if not more.
Through unity and some creativity, much of Barangay Banaba had been cleared of the mud by the end of the second day.
Residents of Barangay Banaba in San Mateo, Rizal returned to cleaning their community on the second day of the cleanup drive. However, they found more mud to clear out than the first day.
August 16 marked the start of the cleanup drive in four inundated barangays along the Marikina River as part of Tzu Chi’s cash relief program (CRP). On the first day, there was much progress, to the locals’ delight. But that night, a heavy downpour fell upon the community, refilling roads and public grounds with more mud. Almost all their hard work had been undone.
Despite this, the CRP participants got to work. On August 17, there were more of them to help in the cleanup than yesterday. Barangay Banaba, for instance, saw an increase in the number of participants, from 302 on the first day to 334 on the second day. Furthermore, more assets from the local government of San Mateo were mobilized, including fire trucks.
For CRP participant Boyet Estoque, the key in hastening the cleanup lays in the canals running across the community.
“I wanted to prioritize the canals. If we clean them out, we won’t have to worry about the mud since it’ll have a place to flow through,” he explained.
Arguing that the mud will simply return unless the canals are cleared, he and a few friends took the daunting task upon themselves. It was no easy task removing everything clogging the vital waterways, more so sweeping the muddy water. For that, they improvised.
“We have ways of cleaning here, like using flooded bags and trolleys to ferry garbage. We also made plywood ploughs like that one to scrape the mud off of the ground and push the muddy water away,” added Estoque.
He and the people of Banaba know that only they can care for their community. Groups such as Tzu Chi may help them along the way, but only the locals can take action.
“Cash aid or no, we give back with goodness. This is our home. No one else will show love and care for it other than us,” he ended.
As the cleanup progressed, CRP participants searched for houses they could help in removing the mud and filth. The area closest to the river was aplenty with families still reeling from the disaster. Even with the clear and present danger, for the locals, no other place can simply be called home.
Lenny Monteser cleaned her house on her own, while her husband went to work. Having no children, they’re the only occupants of the house. A handful of volunteers offered to help her, which she graciously accepted.
“I’m thankful that someone helped me clean up,” said 29-year-old Monteser.
Tzu Chi volunteer Marife Reyes oversaw the survey of homes to benefit from the bayanihan or spirit of unity. She gave priority to households who are living on their own, with no immediate family member to help out.
“We went around to check on homes that need help cleaning, as our purpose is to help others in need,” said Reyes.
In another part of the riverside, CRP participant Wilma Calipayan led her group to the residence of 54-year-old Reynaldo Del Valle. With his wife out on tutoring work, only Del Valle—also a tutor—was left to clean the house. With a beeline of participants ferrying buckets of mud back and forth, his house benefitted from the bayanihan the locals are known for.
“We’re doing this to help our neighbors whose homes are still inundated. We cherish unity in our community, which is why we manage to clean several areas faster,” said Calipayan.
“I know for a fact that the Lord blesses [Tzu Chi] foundation. He doesn’t look at its teachings but its deeds. That’s the more important factor,” said Del Valle, adding that he had been praying for a group of angels to come help him.
By the end of the second day, the local homeowners association had declared that 90 percent of the area was mud-free. Such a result could’ve only been possible through a community that shared a common goal.