February 12, 2021 ushered in the lunar New Year of the Ox. And, every year it has been customary for Tzu Chi members and volunteers living abroad to come to Hualien, Taiwan, to reunite with Master Cheng Yen at the Tzu Chi Abode.
This year, due to the pandemic, Tzu Chi volunteers from around the world were unable to fly back to Taiwan. However, thanks to technology, Tzu Chi volunteers were able to use the Internet to gather together online and meet Master face-to-face through teleconferencing.
In addition, Tzu Chi members and volunteers were able to showcase the Buddhist Tzu Chi Campus (BTCC) after years of building and renovations. Master Cheng Yen hopes that the campus, which is located in Sta Mesa, Manila, will eventually become a Buddhist holy place when completed. To help it become that, replicas of some of the building found at the Tzu Chi complex in Hualien were built.
The small wooden cabin, where Master Cheng Yen became a monk and practiced Buddhism more than 50 years ago, is there to remind us of the humble nature of Tzu Chi, while the replica of the Jingsi Abode, the birthplace of Tzu Chi, was built to provide Tzu Chi members and volunteers with a “home away from home” when they are unable to visit Hualien.
So, on this first day of the New Year of the Ox, due to the pandemic and social distancing, only a small number of Tzu Chi members and volunteers, in three groups, were able to pay their respects to Master Cheng Yen.
The first group was composed of 3 senior commissioners, led by Linda Chua, the first CEO of Tzu Chi Philippines - during her years as CEO, the Tzu Chi Foundation mainly conducted medical missions in the provinces. The group conducted their New Year greeting in front of the wooden cabin.
The second group, led by current CEO Henry Yunez and former CEO Alfredo Li, together with senior brothers and doctors from Tzu Chi’s International Medical Association (TIMA), paid their New Year greetings to Master Cheng Yen in front of the Jingsi Abode.
The third group of Tzu Chi volunteers, led by the district leaders, paid their New Year greetings to Master Cheng Yen in the Jingsi Hall.
In addition, videos of Tzu Chi volunteers from Davao, Ormoc, Palo, Leyte as well as thousands of Jeepney drivers helped by the Tzu Chi Foundation last year, also joined in the celebration. Some of them even practiced a few words in Chinese to wish their best for the New Year. Master Cheng Yen was very pleased to see these happy faces and said: "Please come back to see me after the pandemic.”
Master Cheng Yen’s red envelopes, containing earnings of her book sales, were distributed to Tzu Chi members and volunteers who attended the ceremony. While it was not possible for local volunteers to go to Taiwan this year, thirty students from the Ormoc Great Love Village, who are currently studying at the Tzu Chi University in Hualien, were able to spend their spring break in the abode by helping the nuns prepare for the lunar New Year celebration. They were very happy and felt so blessed to be able to learn so much from the nuns during this time of the year, as well as be able to represent the Philippines in Hualien.