Thursday, Apr 15

Despite fire, Tatalon donors vow to keep on helping

March 06, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

In a heartwarming display of dedication, the fire victims pitch in to help Tzu Chi help others. Most of them lost everything in the blaze, but they know that their kindness will reach others in need. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • The February 28 fire in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, while ruinous, hardly fazed the community from continuing to help others. In showing their dedication to maintain the status quo, their charity returns to help them in the form of the March 6 relief distribution.

  • Around 400 affected families received goods like clothes, dinnerware, eco-friendly blankets, and 20 kilos of rice from Taiwan.


The fire spared nothing out of the home of Dioscora Guzman. In the predawn hours of February 28, she and her son fled the inferno. Even after firefighters had put the blaze under control, they weren’t still allowed back inside the compound.

At least, that’s what she thought until her son found her coin bank from Tzu Chi. Through the blaze and the hard-fought battle to contain it, the coin bank survived relatively unscathed.

“A chill went down my spine. How could this coin bank fall down and escape the blaze unharmed? My entire house was razed to the ground, down to the steel bars. But the coin bank survived,” she narrates.

She couldn’t recall how much was in the can before the fire. It had since been turned over to Tzu Chi. Her only regret is being unable to keep the “lucky” coin bank (although she intended to turn over her donation).

Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City, where the fire occurred, has been a strong community of Tzu Chi donors and volunteers since the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana). The sight of Tzu Chi’s coin bank in every home isn’t an unusual sight. For its thousands of residents, the Buddhist organization is a household name with regard to helping people in need.

And the fire barely changed the status quo. Donors like Guzman, despite losing everything in the disaster, continue to contribute to the cause of love and care. Coin banks can be replaced, but innocent lives can’t.

“[Tzu Chi] helps us, so we’ll keep contributing for the benefit of others in need. We’re not the only ones who can be affected by a fire,” says Guzman.

In the fire victims’ hour of need, Tzu Chi volunteers raced to provide relief. Hours after the fire, they cooked hot meals for the victims and firefighters. With the arrival of the Mobile Kitchen from the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus, they continued providing meals to the victims for two days.

Less than a week later, they returned with relief goods. Eco-friendly blankets, bags of clothing, dinnerware, cooking pots, and 20 kilos of rice (among others) found their way to nearly 400 families. Tzu Chi’s recycling center, half a block away from the disaster site, was the venue for the distribution.

The relief activity is enough proof of reciprocating love for Rosita Loriaga. She began contributing to the cause after Tzu Chi helped her paralyzed father by providing a wheelchair. Although it was lost in the fire, along with her coin bank, she won’t stop sparing some change for the needy.

“For me, [the coin bank] is a blessing because it brings a wave of blessings in return,” says Loriaga.

Charity comes back

As a long-time donor, Luzviminda Pillogo has been taught not to expect anything in return for her kindness. Running a canteen prior to the disaster, she saves part of her income for charity. It’s been a habit of hers even before Tzu Chi came to her life.

Then, her charity comes back to help in the form of the relief goods.

“Even if we don’t receive any relief, we don’t take it against them. I know that there are other people who need help more than I do,” says Pillogo.

This selfless devotion becomes an important virtue to cultivate, especially among disaster victims. A fire victim herself 18 years ago, Tzu Chi volunteer Avelita Marquez joined the foundation after seeing the “angels in blue” in action. Her part of the razed community didn’t receive any relief, but seeing Tzu Chi’s service to the needy inspired her.

“If you help others, even if you don’t think or ask for anything in return, something will come when you least expect it. Just like the donors, they help people and, soon, they’re helped in their utmost need,” she says.

#HelpTzuChiHelpOthers. Be it spare change or a written check, any contribution for the welfare of those in need is welcomed. To get started, visit

  • Beneficiaries pour into the Tzu Chi Tatalon Recycling Center, not far from the disaster site. The facility also served as a coordination center for preliminary relief efforts hours after the fire. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi volunteers unpack bags of clothes for distribution. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The beneficiaries and volunteers pray for peace of mind, a harmonious society, and a world free of disasters. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • A beneficiary struggles with a full load of relief goods while accepting another item. Among the items distributed include bags of clothes, eco-friendly blankets, and 20 kilos of rice from Taiwan. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Luzviminda Pillogo (right) receives a detergent bar with her load of relief goods. She has been donating to charity long before Tzu Chi came to Tatalon. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Avelita Marquez (right) stands on the remains of the home of Dioscora Guzman (left). The latter is the owner of the “lucky” coin bank that survived the inferno and falling several feet unscathed. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • In front of the remains of her home, Rosita Loriaga (left) narrates her harrowing ordeal. She has been donating to Tzu Chi since the latter gave her paralyzed father a wheelchair. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Amidst the razed ruins, residents begin rebuilding their homes and lives. Some settle for temporary roofs and beds where their homes used to be, while others are still spending nights at the evacuation center. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • A coin bank is burned beyond recognition, the fate of its contents uncertain following the fire. Residents claim that it’s an old Tzu Chi coin bank with a non-removable lid. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】