For the second year, recipients of Tzu Chi’s housing program in Ormoc City celebrate the Buddha’s birthday, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi’s 51st Global Anniversary on May 13 at the Ormoc Superdome
Over 700 individuals, most of them Catholics by faith, take part in the Buddha Bathing ceremony to show their gratitude to Tzu Chi and pay respect to the Buddha.
Among the highlights of the celebration this year is the local volunteers’ drum and bell performance of a verse from the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings.
Members of Tzu Chi Ormoc Youth present a program to celebrate Mother’s Day. The young volunteers kneel before their mothers, offer them flowers, ask their mothers’ forgiveness and then give their mothers a massage.
Gratitude and awakening served as theme for this year’s Buddha Day, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi’s 51st Global Anniversary celebration in Ormoc City, Leyte. Held on May 13 at the Ormoc Superdome, the three-fold event is joined by over 700 individuals, who are recipients of Tzu Chi’s housing village for Yolanda victims in this city.
This is the second year that Tzu Chi brought the celebration in Ormoc. Local Tzu Chi volunteers from the pool of housing beneficiaries lead in the preparations. While they learned from experience in the previous year, the volunteers were faced with a new set of challenges this time, including the sudden change of venue and adjustments on the program.
Instead of holding the celebration inside the Tzu Chi’s housing village, the Tzu Chi Ormoc Great Love City in Barangay Lilo-an, it was moved to the Ormoc Superdome due to the rainy weather. As the new venue is much farther from their homes, Tzu Chi hired six units of buses to transport the participants.
Tzu Chi Philippines Deputy CEO Alfredo Li saw how the local volunteers overcame every hurdle to make the event a success.
“I’m very touch that they are not Buddhists but they came here and practice many times just to make sure that this Buddha Day in Ormoc would be successful,” says Li.
For Edwina Rosales, one of the participants, attending the event is her simple way of showing her gratitude to Tzu Chi. “Because of Tzu Chi we have a house to call our own now and I can sleep at peace every night because I don’t have to think about paying the rent in the coming days anymore,” she says.
Edwina has three children. She and her husband support them by driving a passenger van, while she serves as the conductor. For five years, their family had never had a place to call their home. They had to constantly move from one rented house to another especially when they could not sustain paying the rent.
“This is my way of thanking Master Cheng Yen and to show my respect to the Buddha. Although I am not a Buddhist, I believe in the goodness of the Buddha,” says Edwina.
“If not for the Buddha, there will be no Master Cheng Yen and if not for Master, there will be no Tzu Chi. If not for Tzu Chi, we won’t be living in a beautiful home at the Great Love City now,” she adds.
Among the highlights of the celebration this year is the local volunteers’ drum and bell performance of a verse from the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings. In Buddhism, the drum and bell signify awakening. In the same way, the residents of the Great Love City have been roused from living with ill vices to leading more meaningful lives as Tzu Chi volunteers.
They showed this as they vow, during the event, to leave behind their ill vices of smoking, drinking, and gambling and instead follow the teachings of Master Cheng Yen: to say good words, think good thoughts, and do good deeds.
Their performance ends with the singing of the song, “I will follow you,” as they held on to each other’s shoulder and follow the image of an ox, symbolizing Master Cheng Yen, around the Superdome. The crowd also joined in the singing.
According to Violeta Codilla, wife of former Ormoc mayor Edward Codilla, this is Tzu Chi’s best gift to the people of Ormoc.
“Tzu Chi’s most important gift to the people of Ormoc is their transformation,” she says. “Because of Master’s teachings, they have been awakened and changed their bad habits so that they can live a better life.”
The Codilla family played an important role in the realization of Tzu Chi’s housing project in Ormoc. It was them who owned the 50-hectare land where the Tzu Chi Great Love City now stands. The family donated the land so the Buddhist group can start putting up houses for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda in Ormoc.
To see that the fruit of their donation has made a difference in the lives of their people could not amount to any reward.
A mother’s love, a child’s gratitude
The celebration also paid tribute and respect to the sacrifices of all mothers.
During the Mother’s Day program, members of the Ormoc Youth group, composed of young volunteers from the Tzu Chi Great Love City, showed a short skit to remind everyone about the real essence of our birthdays.
“Master Cheng Yen said that the day of our birth is the most dangerous day for our mothers; because when the baby is born successfully then everyone will be happy. But when something goes wrong, then the mother might die,” explains one young volunteer during their presentation.
Afterwards, the young volunteers sang a song called “Mother’s Cradle.” The song, which recounts our infant days in our mother’s cradle, brought to tears the young volunteers’ mothers as well as everyone present.
Hours before the program started, youth group member, Faye Manili, grew emotional during the rehearsals for their performance. The night before, she and her mother had an argument and she went to the rehearsal that morning without saying sorry yet. She felt so mad at her mother that she didn’t even invite her to watch her perform at the Tzu Chi event later that afternoon. Still, her mother came over to see her.
After talking to Tzu Chi volunteers, who found out about her situation and encouraged her to approach her mother, Faye went to ask for forgiveness.
During the Mother’s Day program, Faye also took the chance to offer a flower and massage her mother’s shoulders. “I realized that Mama wanted me to massage her back and shoulders because she’s always tired but I often could not do it and I felt bad that I never got to do it,” says Faye. “Although I have talked back to my mother because I got carried away by emotions, she still forgave me. Although I have not been a good daughter, she always loves me.”
Anna Eudora, Faye’s mother, was touched by the gesture. The single mother had raised her only daughter alone by doing different jobs: massage therapy, crocheting, and running a small variety store at their home.
Acting as a mother and a father at the same time, she says, is a difficult challenge; but her love for her daughter is what fuels her. “Although we had an argument, a mother’s prayer for her daughter will always be for her good and that’s how it will always be,” she says.
Another pair of mother and child who took part in the program is 34-year-old Lucia Estrera and 17-year-old Marife Loreto.
The Mother’s Day program was nothing like Marife had done and Lucia had experience before. Hence, this particular Mother’s Day is special for the two of them.
“This is the first time that I am able to do this for my mother and I’m grateful to Tzu Chi because of it. I am thankful because they taught us to love our parents and show them our utmost respect for raising us well,” she says.
Lucia, meanwhile, extends her gratitude to Tzu Chi for teaching their children positive traits by encouraging them to form a group that will do volunteer works inside the village. Among the programs that the Ormoc Youth group has carried out since it was formed this year is recycling collection. They also join as volunteers in Tzu Chi activities like rice distributions, among others.
“Tzu Chi led our children in the right path and teaches them good values so that they refrain from doing ill vices like drinking and smoking. Now, our children are more disciplined and they don’t have vices anymore,” says Lucia.