For the residents of the Visayas region in the Philippines, Christmas Day of 2019 was a disastrous day that stripped them of their lifetime savings. Typhoon Ursula took the same path of Typhoon Yolanda (international code Haiyan) and swept through central Philippines on Christmas Day, destroying thousands of dwellings and displacing its inhabitants.
14 Tzu Chi volunteers from Manila headed for Roxas City on the early morning of January 2 to survey the aftermath of the typhoon. The team visited Capiz Governor Esteban Evan Contras immediately to better understand the situation in his area of responsibility before proceeding to the Municipality of Pilar, one of the hardest hit municipalities in Capiz province.
Volunteers saw damaged houses on their way to the mountainous area, and witnessed fishermen saddened with disbelief, watching their fishing boats scattered in disarray along the coastal shore.
Another group of 18 Tzu Chi volunteers from Manila and Cebu lead by CEO Henry Yuñez arrived at Roxas City on January 6. Vice Mayor Edvil John Alfaro welcomed Tzu Chi volunteers and bring them to his Municipality of President Roxas – a 4th class municipality in Capiz. 37 kilometers from Roxas City.
Residents of the ravaged municipality were hopeful that Tzu Chi Foundation can extend some help since it is the first NGO that has come to their place.
Tzu Chi volunteers were divided into two groups the next day to go deeper into the disaster areas. One group of volunteers took the boat ride to off-shore islands devastated by the typhoon.
After thorough investigation and discussion, it was concluded that the disaster-stricken areas were quite extensive, and the number of victims high. Considering the limited resources and time, everyone decided that disaster relief operations be concentrated in the Municipality of President Roxas and Pilar and their surrounding barangays within 17 miles which includes 5 offshore islands.
Relief vouchers were distributed only to those whose houses were totally destroyed and had no means of livelihood. The list of beneficiaries was determined with the help of the local government as well as the volunteers who visited each and every barangay.
With the cooperation of Metrobank, Tzu Chi Foundation was able to help 1,446 families during this relief distribution on January 7. Each family with 1-2 members received 10,000 pesos. 2-3 members got 15,000 pesos, while those families with 5 members and above got 20,000 pesos. The financial aid was a big surprise for all the recipients that day and all of them were so grateful for Master Cheng Yen’s instruction to the volunteers of Tzu Chi Foundation to uplift the livelihood of the victims in their time of need.