Tzu Chi Foundation’s waste segregation and recycling campaign in cemeteries every All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days has been running for seven years now. Every year, the program helps reduce trash in Manila North Cemetery by half, according to the memorial park’s director, Daniel Tan.
Richard Feliciano, 22, has intellectual disability. Yet every year, after paying his respects to his ancestors, he visits Tzu Chi’s recycling station in Manila North Cemetery to help with the volunteers’ recycling activity.
For seven years, Tzu Chi Foundation has been relentless in its campaign to raise awareness about recycling and environmental protection in cemeteries throughout the observance of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.
From October 29 to November 3, a total of 1,715 Tzu Chi volunteers were mobilized to conduct recycling promotion and collection in nine cemeteries namely Loyola Memorial Parks in Marikina City and Parañaque City, Manila North and South Cemeteries in Manila, Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City, Holy Cross Memorial Park in Quezon City, Manila Chinese Cemetery in Manila, Paraiso Memorial Park in San Mateo, Rizal, and Himlayang Pilipino in Quezon City.
At 54 hectares, Manila North Cemetery is the largest in the metropolis. For this reason, the cemetery’s director, Daniel Tan, said Tzu Chi’s constant presence in their cemetery at this time of the year eases their burden of disposing the large volume of trash that accumulates throughout the season.
“Our biggest problem every year is the cleanliness of the cemetery. In this matter, Tzu Chi Foundation is a big help to us. Tzu Chi volunteers are quick to mobilize and their number is big so it’s faster to clean up the area. With their help, every year, I think almost half of our garbage are reduced,” said Tan.
Ferdinand Carreon, 57, a street sweeper from the Manila Department of Public Services (DPS), agreed. Since 2005, he has been one of the sweepers assigned at the Manila North Cemetery during this season. He recalled that the large volume of trash used to take them three to four days to collect.
“Tzu Chi volunteers started collecting plastic bottles in 2010. To this day, they are always present during All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. The positive thing is that the volunteers personally gather and collect the recyclables so the trash are no longer mixed together, making it easier for us to clean up the area,” added Carreon.
The program has also contributed in terms of transforming the mindset of the public about the environment. By explaining with everyone they meet about the current situation of our planet and how Global Warming and Climate Change are resulting to destructive calamities that affect both wealthy and poor countries, Tzu Chi volunteers managed to persuade many people to do their part in saving the planet from complete destruction.
Eunille Padernal, 21, annually visits her ancestors in Manila North Cemetery. During these visits, she often sees Tzu Chi volunteers who taught her the importance of segregating her trash and the little habits she needs to quit in order to make a difference.
For instance, a September 2017 report by the international non-government environmental organization Greenpeace ranked the Philippines as the third worst ocean polluter after China and Indonesia. This is due to the Filipinos’ habit of patronizing products packaged in cheap, disposable plastics.
“I heard about how seabirds are accidentally ingesting plastics from the oceans, thinking they are food. That’s why we really have to limit the use of plastic now. If we can recycle our trash, let us do it. What Tzu Chi is doing is teaching the Filipinos to become disciplined in segregating their trash,” said Padernal.
Raul Alfonso, who works for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), also sees Tzu Chi volunteers in Manila North Cemetery every year. He has good words for the volunteers’ efforts.
“I think this program has had a significant impact. People are conscious now of throwing their trash properly. It’s helping the environment,” he said.
For the past two years, after paying his respects to his ancestors, 22-year-old Richard Feliciano has made it a habit to visit Tzu Chi’s recycling station in Manila North Cemetery to help with the volunteers’ recycling activity. Although he has intellectual disability, he understood the value of what the volunteers are doing.
“I collected these plastic bottles,” he said, showing the bag of plastic bottles that he had collected. “I went around the cemetery so I can help reduce garbage and help Tzu Chi.”
Recycling and love for the environment can be learned by everyone. With persistence and guidance, everyone can contribute to make the world cleaner and save it from destruction.