Thursday, Apr 15

One man’s kindness feeds a village of love

May 11, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

In a sea of Chinese cabbage, Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao takes his pick of the best. Only the mountainous terrain of Barangay Cabintan in Ormoc City can grow such crisp vegetables. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • When Great Love City resident Alberto Monteves brought fresh vegetables over and asked not to be paid, Tzu Chi reciprocated his kindness. On May 11, volunteers visited his farm at Barangay Cabintan and bought 98 kilos of tomatoes and leafy greens for twice the farmer’s price.


As the first day of preparations for the three-in-one event comes to a close, the company of Tzu Chi Philippines deputy-CEO Alfredo Li receives a last-minute delivery of vegetables.

Racing down from the mountains north of Ormoc City, Alberto Monteves pulls up by the Great Love City office at sunset on May 10. He brings one sack of cabbages and one sack of pechay (Chinese cabbage) as his contribution to the upcoming celebration on May 13. He knows that Tzu Chi is going to need a feast to feed the volunteers helping with the preparations.

When Li insists on paying for the vegetables, Monteves politely refused.

Although Monteves resides at the Great Love City, his only means of livelihood demands that he goes to his brother’s farm at Barangay Cabintan. Tucked in the central mountain range, this farming village grows a wide variety of vegetables like cabbages, tomatoes, and chili peppers.

It’s also close to the epicenter of the July 2017 earthquake that devastated Kananga.

Unwilling to leave such kindness unpaid, Li pays the family a visit. The 30-minute uphill journey leads them to rocky roads by the cliff, passing by earthquake victims still living in tarp-covered abodes since the earthquake. From the road, the volunteers walk for another several minutes to reach the residence.

The farmland itself is huge but only half of what it used to be. Monteves used to own all four hectares but had to sell half of it in 2016 to pay for his leukemia treatment. He can’t think of anything to give back to Tzu Chi other than his bumper crop harvest.

“Tzu Chi has given a lot: housing, cash assistance, and rice. I can’t think of anything else to give than vegetables,” Monteves says.

Along with a small contingent of Tzu Chi volunteers, Li spent the entire morning picking cherry tomatoes and harvesting cabbages. Despite growing in the countryside, Li hasn’t experienced the backbreaking work that goes into feeding a population.

“When we eat vegetables, let’s remember that it takes farmers a lot of effort. So it’s a reminder not to waste food,” Li says.

Upon returning to the Great Love City, the harvest is weighed. The visit yielded 15 kilos of cabbage, 41 kg of pechay, and 42 kg of tomatoes. At the current market, the haul is worth Php2,000.

Li paid for all 98 kg of vegetables for twice the amount. This time, he urged the young farmer to accept the payment.

“We were touched by the goodness in their heart, so we would like to give back also,” adds Li.

He also considers bringing Ormoc Tzu Chi Youth volunteers to this farm to help them appreciate the blessing of food.

That afternoon, local volunteers used the tomatoes to cook spaghetti for their fellows busy with the event preparations. Later that evening, it was also served to the contingent of Tzu Chi scholars from Bohol, joining their Ormocanon counterparts in the festivities.

One man’s kindness has helped feed a loving community. And he would be more than glad to continue the trend.

  • From the main road, Tzu Chi volunteers hike for several minutes toward the Monteves farm. Despite the late morning heat, the cool mountain air provides a much-needed respite. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi volunteers were advised to wear rain boots, as part of the road tends to turn into a river of mud. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The Monteves home in Barangay Cabintan is Alberto's home away from home. He leaves the Great Love City as early as 6:00 a.m. to tend to the farm and returns at 6:00 p.m. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi Philippines deputy-CEO Alfredo Li helps out with the harvest. Although born and raised in the countryside, Li admits that he has little experience in such backbreaking work. The visit to the farm, for him, has been an eye-opener. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The Monteves farm used to be bigger at four hectares. But when Alberto was diagnosed with leukemia in 2016, he was forced to sell half of it to pay for his treatment. Since then, he has been making the most of what's left of his farm. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • In some cases, Alberto has to climb coconut trees to diversify his supply of produce. He admits that he's not used to such a task, but he wants to maximize his productivity for his family. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Back at the Great Love City, the harvest is weighed. This sack of tomatoes is 42 kg. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The day before the visit, Alberto donated vegetables in support of the three-in-one event and asked for no payment. After the visit, Li insisted on accepting his payment of PHp4,000, twice the farmer's price, for the 98 kg of vegetables harvested. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Late that afternoon, the tomatoes are chopped and stir-fried to make the base for spaghetti. Much later, the dish was served among volunteers, as well as the contingent of Bohol Tzu Chi scholars joining the event. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】