Thursday, Jul 29

Sowing seeds of love in a fire-ravaged land

May 27, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

As Tzu Chi volunteers went from door to door, grateful residents turn over their coin cans filled to the brim with compassion. From beneficiaries, the fire victims of Barangay Mayamot, Antipolo City become benefactors. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • Nearly three months after Tzu Chi distributed relief packages to the fire ravaged Sitio Baybay Sapa in Barangay Mayamot, Antipolo City, volunteers returned for the community’s first donation drive. It resulted in an overwhelming display of support from the residents willing to help others in need elsewhere.


On March 3, a fire broke out at a portion of the slums of Barangay Mayamot, Antipolo City. At least 100 houses were razed to the ground, displacing 170 families. With Tzu Chi’s relief aid four days later, the affected residents were on the road to recovery. Weeks later, Tzu Chi gave shoes to the victims.

Nearly three months have passed, the signs of the disaster having all but disappeared. Homes are rebuilt, children return to playing, and adults make merry by the karaoke machine. Normal life resumes in this hamlet by the creek, hoping to move past memories of the fire.

But there are some things that they can never forget, namely the lesson on helping others which they learned during Tzu Chi’s relief mission. Because of this, they’ve taken upon themselves to sow seeds of goodness despite living difficult lives.

On May 27, Tzu Chi volunteers returned to Mayamot to initiate the community’s first donation drive. With the help of local guides, they split up to collect donations from 114 donors who previously signed up to receive coin cans. Through narrow alleys and the merrymaking of the afternoon, the volunteers managed to collect a great deal of funds from grateful residents.

The funds would then be used to acquire relief goods for fire victims elsewhere. The donation drive came at an opportune moment, as the foundation needed to respond to four fires that have occurred over the past week.

“I appreciate the residents’ resolve to help. I can see in their heart that they want to help,” remarks Tzu Chi volunteer Lilia Zarate.

Nelia Rey’s store by the roadside barely escaped destruction, although most of her goods were drenched in fighting the blaze. Despite her tendency to forget, she always reminded herself to spare what she could from her income and drop them in the coin bank before going to sleep. As a result, her coin bank turned out heavy.

“Helping others isn’t a hefty burden. If you ask me, I’d rather help than be helped because there are others who are far worse off than me,” Rey says.

Irma Vitiong’s house now is half of what it was before the fire. Budget constraints forced the family to shelf plans to rebuild the second floor. However, not once did she consider putting aside her resolve to help others through the coin bank.

“Just because we need help doesn’t mean we need to be helped all the time. There are still others,” says Vitiong.

The community of donors may be small now, but with enough support from Tzu Chi volunteers and inspired locals, it should grow over time. To educate and encourage more of their neighbors to help others in need by sparing as much as they can is the long-term goal that Wenefrida Abalon, the coordinator for the donation drive, will be working on.

“I want every one of us here to help as a Tzu Chi donor,” says Abalon.

#HelpTzuChiHelpOthers. Tzu Chi’s fivefold missions cannot be sustained without the help of kind hearts. Find out how to help by visiting

  • Only a few crossings to the site of the fire exist. This major crossing takes Tzu Chi volunteers to Antipolo City from Marikina City. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Inside the residence of Wenefrida Abalon, Tzu Chi volunteers strategize on the most efficient way of going from house to house. They decided that splitting into several groups would cover more ground faster. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • This tree is arguably the last vestige of the fire that razed this community in early March. Nearly three months later, half of its branches have yet to return to their former glory. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Nelia Rey (right) watches as her share of love is counted. Before going to sleep, Rey spares part of her income from her store for the coin bank. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Although not a registered donor, this resident has expressed interest in helping Tzu Chi. She's issued a receipt, with the opportunity to be issued a coin can coming soon. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Even denominations of less than one Philippine peso are counted to the growing pool of compassion. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Irma Vitiong witnesses the counting of her donation to Tzu Chi by a volunteer and a neighbor. Despite being in a financial pickle, she's determined to help others in need. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】