Thursday, Apr 15

Ormoc villagers take the difficult bodhisattva path

May 09, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

It wasn't easy doing a pilgrimage along a rocky road, but the participants completed it nonetheless. Their determination to complete the ceremony--and on her birthday no less--moved Dharma Master Cheng Yen, remarking that they all harbored gratitude in their hearts. 【Photo by Robert Ejada】

Story Highlights

  • On Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s birthday, villagers of the Tzu Chi Great Love City in Ormoc City completed an hour-long pilgrimage across rocky terrain. Despite aching knees and soiled pants, the 900 participants carried on, inspired by the goodness that they’ve experienced in their darkest hour.


As Dharma Master Cheng Yen turned 81 years old, villagers of the Tzu Chi Great Love City in Ormoc City on May 9 conducted a morning pilgrimage.

Whereas the typical pilgrimage is done on flat surfaces, some 900 villagers and volunteers did so along a rocky dirt road. Despite wearing pants, the participants bore the brunt of kowtowing on a surface riddled with rocks. Adding to the difficulty is the mud made by heavy rainfall days before. Still, the procession carried on without incident.

On the eve of the pilgrimage, Tzu Chi Philippines deputy-CEO Alfredo Li led the concerted effort to level the road as much as they can. Without hesitation, villagers grabbed a shovel and filled potholes and puddles with earth. That night, some villagers laid down markers to guide the participants in the pilgrimage. The markers are a simple construction of old nails and recycled plastic bottle caps

Li, leading the pilgrimage, felt his knees ache despite the repairs done on the road. But he was as resolute to finish the ceremony as the participants.

“When I started bowing, it was easy. But as I continued, I felt my knees ache. This reminded me of Master’s saying: it’s easy to make a vow but difficult to make it happen,” Li said.

Fellow volunteer Jose Yu from Tacloban almost up and quit because of the rocky terrain. “But I wanted to wish Master in her birthday, so I decided to carry on.”

The pilgrimage began just outside the village. Up to the main road, the villagers took a bow every three steps in a slow but steady fashion for over 200 meters. The procession lasted an hour, concluding with a renewal of vows at the multipurpose building by the main entrance to the Great Love City.

Some held flowers while performing the pilgrimage. Others held their infants, unable to leave their children alone at home. Virgilio Baguino even completed the pilgrimage while carrying a stalk of bananas, his gift to the dharma master.

“My gratitude to Master [Cheng Yen] comes from the heart,” remarked Baguino.

In an episode of Life Wisdom (May 15, 2018), Master Cheng Yen was touched by the gratitude in the hearts of the Ormocanons. The people, in return, revere the pilgrimage—as well as the three-in-one celebration—with the same sanctity as a day of religious obligation.

Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao said that the path of a bodhisattva isn’t an easy one to take. It demands a great deal of humility and patience, especially in a turbulent society. All the more reason one should make this pilgrimage.

“The bowing pilgrimage is to cleanse our inner selves and purify our deluded minds and be free from worries,” said Siao.

At the end of the pilgrimage, the participants vow to walk the bodhisattva path no matter how difficult for the benefit of all. They also ask for the dharma master’s guidance as they go.

  • Despite the difficulty, children joined in the pilgrimage. If not for the villagers' efforts to fill the potholes and puddles of mud left by the rain, the entire ceremony might have been quite the ordeal. 【Photo by Robert Ejada】

  • Leading the pilgrimage, Tzu Chi Philippines deputy-CEO Alfredo Li (front, in glasses) admitted that the ceremony wasn't easy. His knees ached after some time kneeling repeatedly on the rocky terrain. 【Photo by Robert Ejada】

  • As his gift to Master Cheng Yen, as well as his token of gratitude, Virgilio Baguino made the pilgrimage while carrying a stalk of bananas. One can only imagine how heavy the stalk must've been. 【Photo by Robert Ejada】

  • Some participants brought flowers to the pilgrimage as their tribute to the dharma master. 【Photo by Robert Ejada】

  • Others brought their infants, unwilling to leave them alone at home. 【Photo by Robert Ejada】

  • The hour-long pilgrimage ended in front of this multipurpose building just across the Great Love City's main entrance. The participants vowed to go down the difficult but righteous path of a bodhisattva for the benefit of all. 【Photo by Robert Ejada】


  • 20180512 Three steps and one bow pilgrimage on Master Cheng Yen's birthday in Ormoc

  • LAST UPDATED: October 27, 2018 14:10 PM
  • 20180514 Preparation and Pilgrimage on Master Cheng Yen's Birthday in Ormoc City

  • LAST UPDATED: October 27, 2018 14:10 PM