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After four years, Manila fire victims receive love once more

May 04, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

Close to 600 recipients accept Tzu Chi’s relief package, which includes eco-friendly blankets, sleeping mats, donated clothes, and 20 kilos of rice from Taiwan. Many were once victims of a fire that broke out four years ago, in which Tzu Chi also mobilized to provide much-needed aid. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • Four years after a fire struck the area, Tzu Chi volunteers return to the same residential block at Sta. Cruz, Manila following a larger fire that leveled everything. In keeping with the routine of giving love and care, the volunteers provided timely aid to 590 families.


Prompted by a larger fire, Tzu Chi volunteers return to a familiar place in Sta. Cruz, Manila to give material and spiritual aid.

Four years ago, half of the residential block behind the Manila City Jail was razed to the ground. Aside from displacing 500 families, the fire forced the nearby hospital and jail to evacuate as extra precaution, although the fire never reached there. This year, on April 27, a larger fire swept across the entire block and reenacted the same chaotic situation. According to local authorities, over 600 families were driven away from their homes.

Fortunately in both disasters, only minor injuries were reported.

Divine Habon was a victim in both the 2014 and 2018 fires. The living conditions following the disasters couldn’t be any more familiar to her. The foremost problem the evacuees face as they recover is water, not just lack thereof but also too much of it.

“There’s no running water or proper toilet here. We ask the unaffected homes if we can use their comfort rooms. When it rains, the water goes right under our sleeping mats,” says Habon.

Fires are the most common disasters in the Philippines. A small fire can be influenced by a slew of factors such as the closeness of the houses, the difficulty of bringing firefighting assets closer to the blaze, and the materials that comprise the homes. In this case, the fire burned for hours as the tightly-packed homes in the slums are made out of flammable materials like wood and fabric. This also forced firefighters to look for ways around the blaze to fight it more effectively.

The weather also played a role in the recent fire, as it had been a windy night that time.

“Even with the firefighters already here, the fire was simply too strong to be contained. It spread left and right continuously. The people didn’t know where to flee. Some even had to make holes along the concrete fence just to get away,” Habon narrates.

With so many packed slums in Metro Manila alone, it’s no surprise that Tzu Chi volunteers often conduct fire relief missions. Between January and April 2018, Tzu Chi Philippines conducted 20 missions and gave aid to over 4,000 families. By comparison, from January to December 2017, it conducted 46 missions and gave aid to more than 9,500 families in Metro Manila.

And so, in keeping with their routine of giving love and care, Tzu Chi volunteers on May 4 gave aid to 590 families of Sta. Cruz, Manila. The goods include eco-bags, sleeping mats, thermal blankets, donated clothes, hygiene kits, and 20-kilo sacks of rice from Taiwan. Most victims of the 2014 fire lost these items in this year’s fire, so the delivery of aid was opportune.

“As you can see, the residents here are going through rough times. So we’re happy that Tzu Chi brought aid to them just as they did in the past,” remarked Limuel Labañiego, the chairman of Barangay 312 Zone 31 where the razed block is located.

However common disasters are, especially in a disaster-prone country like the Philippines, Tzu Chi volunteers remain dedicated to helping people in need.

“It’s our duty to help disaster victims no matter what,” says Tzu Chi volunteer Christy Ty.

#HelpTzuChiHelpOthers! Visit for details.

  • The fire on the night of April 27 spared nothing out of this residential block in Sta. Cruz, Manila. This was also the site of a smaller fire four years ago. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Barangay 312 Zone 31 chairman Limuel Labañiego (right) oversaw the relief efforts coming in. First is from the local government, and then from non-government bodies like Tzu Chi. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Divine Habon (right) lost her home in both the 2014 and 2018 fires, including the relief items she got from Tzu Chi in the past. This year, she’s grateful that she gets to have a new set of items. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The absence of a nearby covered court or auditorium forced the fire victims to seek shelter under tarpaulin. The days since the fire have been sweltering, adding to their discomfort. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The relief program was held out in the open, under the unrelenting noontime heat. Despite this, the fire victims waited patiently to receive their relief goods. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • A beneficiary hauls her bags of relief goods back to her shelter. For her, it’s a good start to recovery. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】