Each participant of the cleanup drive received Php800 assistance from Tzu Chi Foundation. The beneficiaries use the cash aid for their immediate needs such as medicines, food, and other household needs. Others say they will use it to reopen their small livelihood.
When Tzu Chi Foundation informed them that the organization will launch a cash relief program to expedite the cleanup drive in their communities, residents of Barangays Malanday, Tumana, and Nangka in Marikina City and Banaba in San Mateo, Rizal had no idea how much they will be getting. Yet on the first day of the program, 1,575 individuals registered. Not only do they want to have the garbage and mud left by the relentless rains be removed at the soonest possible time, but they also desperately need the cash aid in order to start over.
So, without question, they set to work on August 17, helping each other clear up debris from every alley and side street. Tzu Chi’s sincere intentions to help them, as they have witnessed in the wake of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, was enough reason to trust the Buddhist charity group.
After a day of cleanup, the flood victims gathered for their afternoon assembly. In Barangay Malanday, it was during this time that the Tzu Chi volunteers finally told the participants how much they will be getting.
“After Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana), we gave out Php400. After Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), we gave Php500 to each participant. Anyone who wants to guess how much you will receive this time?” asked one volunteer. Tzu Chi had launched the same program in the aftermath of both disasters to help the survivors recover.
A resident stood up to make a wild guess. “800?”
“Do you believe him?” the volunteer asked the other participants.
A resounding “No!” was the collective answer.
“In fact,” announced the volunteer. “He is correct!”
Hearing this, the crowd erupted in cheers.
“I was so happy,” shared Juvilie Carullo, 36. She was crying when she heard the announcement and she was crying while she was receiving the cash aid. Juvilie said she will use the money to pay for her Kindergarten son’s tuition fees and to buy the books he needs.
Juvilie said her family currently doesn’t have a source of income. Because of the flood, her husband could not go to work.
“That’s why all of the emotions I have in me – from wounding myself in cleaning up to accidentally getting dusts in my eyes, all the pain and inconveniences suddenly disappeared because this is such a big help,” she added.
51-year-old Lucy Aguirre was also beside herself with joy.
“We will be able to buy a lot of things that we need at home,” she remarked.
Most of the furniture and cooking equipment she has at the moment were borrowed from her relatives and friends. Their two-storey house and sari-sari store was not spared by the flooding. Several steps of their wooden stairs also grew frail from being submerged in floodwaters for too long. Lucy and two of her children fell off it when it collapsed while they were cleaning up their home in the flood’s aftermath.
“To ensure my family’s safety, I will use the cash aid to buy wood in order to fix the stairs. Whatever is left, I will use to reopen my sari-sari store so that little by little, we will recover,” said Lucy.
After the cash distribution, Ricky Mique, 42, went directly to a store and bought a light bulb. Since the flood reached their ceiling, their light bulb had not been working. Ricky sought to borrow one from his neighbors but no one can lend him so he and his 4-year-old son, Jacob, had been feeling their way inside their house for several days now.
After buying the light bulb, Ricky went to the pharmacy to buy Jacob’s medicines.
Jacob fell off the creek a week ago. Since the accident, Jacob had been walking awkwardly. He seems to be dragging his right foot behind.
Ricky desperately wants to have his son treated, afraid that he will end up like him. Ricky and his brother, Jerry, 46, are both polio victims. Despite having difficulty in walking, the siblings took part in the cleanup drive. Ricky found a way to contribute better in the activity.
“It’s difficult to go back and forth on foot so I thought of using my own pedicab. I drove and collected as many debris as possible,” said Ricky.
Because Ricky could not pedal fast, Jerry pushed the bike from behind. “We are worried that the garbage will remain in the alleys uncollected for too long so it’s a good thing that we are all here to help each other hasten the cleanup,” shared Jerry.
“We really need help right now and you came, so we are very thankful,” added Ricky.