Thursday, Apr 15

Relief for Navotas Fire Victims

November 20, 2018 | Katrina Mina

Rosario Aldea may have survived the fire, but the 74-year-old woman could not escape the reality of being alone all these years and losing the only home she has. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】

Story Highlights

  • Tzu Chi Foundation distributes relief goods to 314 families who lost everything to the fire in Barangay Tangos North, Navotas City.

  • Stories of three women who survived the fire and the tragedy was told to the volunteers.


With hands ready to help and ears ready to listen, volunteers from Tzu Chi Foundation delivered relief goods to 1,405 fire victims of Barangay Tangos North, Navotas City last November 20, 2018.

The foundation distributed 20-kg sacks of rice to 314 families, along with eco-blankets, clothes, and kitchen necessities like pots and kitchen utensils that are badly needed by the victims.

“With what we brought, the residents can start anew. They can at least survive a couple of weeks with what we gave them. I hope that we are able to help them.” said Tzu Chi volunteer Cristina Fajardo.

The fire was caused by an overheated electric fan at around seven in the morning of November 8, burning around 100 houses and incurring more than a million pesos worth of damages.

“Houses in the community were made of wood and other light materials; these houses were built near each other and were connected by small wooden bridges.The fire escalated immediately with that kind of set up and the strong wind blowing.” said retired Fire Inspector Joselito Dugan.

Although there were no casualties, but most of the families now are in a limbo on where to resettle.

“Thankfully, nobody died. There were some who were injured while trying to save others who were still asleep at that time.” said barangay Chairperson Margarita Limbaro.

Limbaro was grateful for the material and psychological aide her constituents got from Tzu Chi Foundation, “Hopefully, the victims would remain strong despite the tragedy. We hope that they would be able to stand on their feet again. Because this is a challenge that we all have to face.”

Tzu Chi volunteers are hopeful that the community would be able to rise up from this tragedy with the help of generous hearts.

“They have to be resilient despite the tragedy that struck them. As neighbors, they could help one another to hasten their recovery,” said Fajardo.

Volunteer Eduardo del Valle said: “Tzu Chi volunteers are here today to help and to check on the condition of the victims…” he said.


Parent’s instincts

Elizabeth Cataros, 41, was having breakfast in her in-law’s house when the news about the fire broke out.

She remembers telling her brother-in-law that she was anxious that morning, and that she needs to go home in case her 11-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son wakes up. Elizabeth’s instincts were right, because just as she rushed home, the fire was fast approaching their house.

“I took my three kids and ran towards the creek,” said Elizabeth.

Her children’s safety was Elizabeth’s priority. So it came as a shock to her when neighbors told her that her two children had perished in the fire.

“When I saw the fire, I immediately saved my children. I didn’t care about our belongings as long as my kids are safe. But my neighbors were crying because they thought two of my children died.” said Elizabeth.

After the fire, Elizabeth, her husband and their three children temporarily stayed in Tangos 1 Elementary School. Their house was built with her income from doing laundry and her husband’s work as a fisherman. But now that their house was reduced to ashes, Cataros family have to think of a way to rebuild their house once more.

“I just had that house repaired from my earnings as a laundrywoman. Now I’ve to think of where I can get money to rebuild our house again.”

The Cataros family is one of the beneficiaries of Tzu Chi’s relief efforts last November 20 where they receive a 20-kg sack of rice, kitchen utensils, eco-blanket and clothes.

“Thank you, this is a great help to us… I’m thanking [Master Cheng Yen], because this is a big help for us. She helps a lot of people,” she said.


Letting go

“I said, ‘Don’t bother. Don’t bother (to get me). Let me be. Let me go with the fire.’”

These could have been 74-year-old Rosario Aldea’s parting words if her neighbors have not saved her.

Rosario Aldea, or Nanay Charing to those who knows her, was one of the many elderly victims of the fire.

With distress in her eyes, Nanay Charing recalls the events during the fire. “Everything was so sudden. I was sleeping and my grandchild (neighbor) carried me out.”

But Nanay Charing didn’t want to go out.

“My life is agonizing. I just want to rest now.”

Still, Nanay Charing was saved from the fire. But from her salvation emerge new questions. All her four children and her husband died a long time ago, and Nanay Charing lives with her grandson. Without a house, where can she go?

“I thought to myself, ‘God, where would I go? I’m only working to provide for myself and yet this happened to me.” she said.

With the fire reducing her house to ashes, Nanay Charing retreats to her sister-in-law’s house during the night. But during the day, she roams the streets of Navotas in search of anything to fill her empty stomach.

Still, Nanay Charing remains grateful. “I’m thankful to God and to those who helped me.”


Starting anew

The fire took 41-year-old Emma Ibong by surprise.

In fear and in shock, Emma thought she was not able to save the small variety store that provides the needs of her family. Little did she know that with the help of friends and relatives, all her merchandise was saved from the fire.

“Good thing my friends and family were able to save items from our store. This is our only source of income. And thanks to God, my family and I are safe and none of us got hurt.” said a tearful Emma.

But aside from the fire, what worries Emma the most is her eldest child, 23, who has to undergo dialysis daily.

“I cannot go with my child to the hospital because of this. The dialysis, we get for free. But we still have to buy medicine for my child.” she said.

In order to provide for her sick child and four other children, Emma and her spouse Robert immediately setup what resembles a variety store to sell their goods in a small corner of the evacuation center.

“I said, we should just sell here in the corner. I informed the local officials that I’ll try to sell what is left of my goods from the store. The students here have to buy food because there are no stores here.” she said.

Her child will soon have his kidney transplant. But with this fire, Emma is at a lost on what to do next although she said “I’m very grateful to Tzu Chi. We hope that we will be able to save up when we get back home.”

For now, their determination to start anew would be enough.

  • It was seven in the morning when a fire broke out in Oliveros Street, Barangay Tangos North, Navotas City. The fire burned their homes, displacing 1,405 residents. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】

  • Elizabeth Catanis rocks her sick 1-year-old daughter Joeliza. Being in a crowded evacuation center with so many people, the infant already contracted chicken pox. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】

  • With the help of friends and relatives, Emma Ibong was able to save her merchandise. Together with her husband, they occupied a small space in the evacuation center to continue selling their goods. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】

  • Emma’s variety store provides for her five children, including her eldest who has to undergo dialysis daily. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】

  • With her home gone, Rosario Aldea sleeps in her sister-in-law’s house during the night. But during the day, she walks around the streets of the barangay searching for something to ease her hunger. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】

  • A total of 314 families from Navotas City received relief goods during the fire relief mission on November 20, 2018. They were given 20-kg sacks of rice, kitchen utensils, eco-blankets and clothes. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】

  • Fire victims from Barangay Tangos North, Navotas City joined in prayers lead by Tzu Chi’s volunteers to help ease the trauma of the victims. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】

  • Children play with the ashes from the fire. It was reported that the blaze started from an electric fan that overheated. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】

  • Even though some of the stone houses are still upright, most of them were weakened by the fire and needs to be demolished. 【Photo by Katrina Mina】