Thursday, Apr 15

‘One Family,’ prayer pop open bottled sadness

July 06, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

Tears flow out free as a river as this recipient prays silently. Some of the 256 recipients of relief goods from Tzu Chi cried as the song “One Family” and the prayer played. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • Some fire victims were moved to tears as Tzu Chi brought them physical and spiritual aid on July 6. Through the song “One Family” and the Tzu Chi prayer, they opened up and let their sorrow out after days of keeping it bottled up.


Tears were aplenty in Tzu Chi’s fire relief activity in Manila’s University Belt.

On the evening of July 1, a fire broke out in the slums of Barangay 402 Zone 21 in the district of Sampaloc, Manila. Allegedly caused by an overloaded circuit, the fire quickly spread to the local barangay hall. Several classrooms at the University of Manila were also torched, prompting the school to suspend classes for the affected students the next day.

The fire reached the fifth alarm before firefighters brought it under control by midnight, July 2. When Tzu Chi volunteers surveyed the site on July 3, pocket fires could still be seen burning.

As the recipients, mostly housewives, lent an ear to the pre-relief activity by Tzu Chi volunteers on July 6, some have begun to recall their lives reduced to ashes. This is their first time hearing about the foundation and its routine relief operations for disaster victims. As the most common disaster in the country, fires warrant a quick response from Tzu Chi.

When the Tzu Chi song “One Family” was played, most joined the volunteers in performing the sign language. But recipient Laurice Sabando cried in silence instead.

“Tzu Chi’s talk about family drove me to tears because my father and mother are both gone. My only family now is my husband’s parents,” said Sabando, a 29-year-old call center agent.

She lost her mother when she was two years old. More than 20 years later, her father followed.

Between “One Family” and the Tzu Chi prayer that followed, Sabando felt that the time was right to let out her sadness. She had resisted from crying in the fire’s aftermath, as she had to remain strong as a mother.

“I’ve been holding back my tears for days since I can’t let my son see me crying. This happened to be the right time to let out my emotions,” she narrated.

Barangay chairman Cynthia Escuero attested to the sorrow of her constituents. Gripped by fear, the residents at the time had no time to cry while running for their lives. After Tzu Chi volunteers told them to never lose hope, she felt blessed to have the foundation.

 “The spiritual aid really calmed the victims. Through [Tzu Chi’s] prayers, our burden has gotten a lot lighter,” said Escuero.

Before lunchtime, 256 recipients received their share of relief from Tzu Chi. Each care package included a laundry bag, a DaAi Tech blanket, a sleeping mat, a cooking pot, a bag of detergent powder, two sets of dinnerware, packs of donated clothes, and ten kilos of local rice.

Other civic action groups provided school supplies and shoes for the children, which make up a third of the affected population.

Donations abound

As with tears, spare change also flowed into the foundation’s coin banks. Upon learning that even the indigent can help others, the victims spared what they could from the remains of their homes.

An ardent donor in her local parish, 67-year-old Lorenzana Navarro used her commuting budget to help in Tzu Chi’s endeavors.

“The insights [the volunteers] shared, as well as the prayer, really touched us and helped us to move on,” Navarro said.

Yolanda Torres took it upon herself to help, as well, inspired by the prayer.

“While praying, I’m reminded of my family and neighbors who survived the fire unscathed. We’re thankful that [Tzu Chi] came to us because they opened our hearts,” Torres explained.

#HelpTzuChiHelpOthers: For as little as the cost of a cup of coffee, you can help bring love and care to the less-privileged. To know more, visit

  • The pillars in this picture used to be a three-story residence of multiple families. After the fire on July 1, they stand bare and teeter close to collapse. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The worst of the disaster is over, but pocket fires like this one continue to burn in nooks and crannies. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • This multipurpose court can only house a fraction of the 270 families forced from their homes.. Others are scattered all over the area. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Coordinating with barangay chairman Cynthia Escuero (right), Tzu Chi volunteer Richard Tan (left) organizes the relief effort on July 6. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • This in-road served as the venue for the pre-relief program, attended by 256 recipients who are mostly women. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Laurice Sabando weeps for the loss of her home as she prays for peace of mind, a peaceful society, and a disaster-free world. She had only been able to cry on the day of the relief, as she didn’t want to in front of her only child. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The beneficiaries make a beeline for the column of relief goods. Some of the goods they received include blankets, dinnerware, donated clothes, and 10 kilos of local rice. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Laurice Sabando receives her share of love and care from Tzu Chi. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Amidst the noontime traffic, Lorenzana Navarro (front) goes home with her share of local rice. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The entire space in this picture comprises Yolanda Torres’s space in the evacuation center. Until they can be allowed to rebuild, families would have to bear with this cramped life. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】