Wednesday, Apr 14

Youths step up in All Saints’ Day recycling

November 01, 2019 | Jonas Trinidad

A Tzu Chi scholar helps a volunteer collect recyclables in one part of the Manila Chinese Cemetery. This year, more youths have joined in the yearly endeavor in cemeteries all over Metro Manila. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • With many Tzu Chi volunteers getting older, youth volunteers are stepping up for this year’s recycling activity on All Saints’ Day. Five cemeteries all over Metro Manila are the venues of the activity, with youths comprising over half of the volunteer groups.


Old Tzu Chi volunteer Mercedes Urot don’t let their age stop them from doing good deeds. A volunteer since Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, she goes through bags after bags of recyclables collected by her colleagues at the Manila Chinese Cemetery. Like the past several years, they’re still getting recyclables by the dozens this year. However, unlike the past several years, the number seems fewer. For her, it’s a good sign.

“We used to stay here for three days [October 31 to November 2]. While we manage to collect a lot, as years pass the number gets fewer and fewer. Maybe the visitors have learned to properly dispose of their garbage,” said Urot, 65 years old from Barangay Tumana, Marikina City.

Julieta Dela Zerna, while not a Tzu Chi volunteer, has been doing recycling at this time of the year for the past three years. It’s her way of showing gratitude to the foundation that helped her friend undergo brain surgery in 2009. She’s been volunteering in nearly every activity of the foundation ever since.

“I want to help because I’m grateful to Tzu Chi. This is the only way I can think of,” said Dela Zerna, 67 years old from Sta. Cruz, Manila. She’s assigned at the Manila North Cemetery.

Nevertheless, age is still catching up on them. That’s why half of the group of volunteers at the Manila North Cemetery this year is comprised of strong youth. Instead of idling around their homes, they make the most out of their holiday by keeping the cemeteries clean during All Saints’ Day. In this area alone, the volunteers managed to fill over 300 garbage bags.

On its ninth year, Tzu Chi conducted recycling activities in five cemeteries all over Metro Manila. As this tradition of visiting the dearly departed generate tons of waste, volunteers scour the cemeteries for recyclables to collect. Aside from keeping the premises clean, it reduces the strain on the caretakers and inspires society at large to do their part.

The youth is expected to continue with the responsibility, as Tzu Chi volunteer Lilia Zarate explains. They’ve been a great help collecting the recyclables, as well as bringing them out of the area.

“The elderly may no longer be active in the coming years as they might be too weak to continue. It’s good that we brought the youth here so that they would know what to do,” said Zarate, who leads the activity at the Manila North Cemetery.

Youth recycling volunteer Aliyah Jane Cruz doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. In participating in the activity, she keeps her spirit clean as she knows she’s helping others in need.

“It feels wonderful doing this. A lot of people would look at us and wonder why we’re picking up recyclables. I explain to them we’re using it to help disaster victims,” said 18-year-old Cruz from Barangay Nangka, Marikina City.

Recycling forms the core of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Environmental Protection. In the Philippines, Tzu Chi volunteers create a myriad of items out of recyclable materials, namely plastic bottles into handicrafts and even boats. The materials are also sold, with the proceeds going to fund the foundation’s humanitarian works in the country.

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Mercedes Urot goes through bag after bag of recyclables collected by her fellow volunteers. She spends All Saints’ Day volunteering for Tzu Chi, as she says she can visit her family any time. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The rest of the volunteers from Barangay Tumana, Marikina City gathers for a briefing. The group is assigned at the Manila Chinese Cemetery. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Two youth volunteers pulled apart a box of candles. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The volunteers pick out recyclables from a garbage bag outside a mausoleum. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • In Manila North Cemetery, volunteers ferry as many garbage bags as possible to a waiting truck outside. With the surrounding roads closed to vehicular traffic and hordes of people coming in and out of the cemetery, the task is arduous. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Volunteering for the activity is Julieta Dela Zerna’s way of thanking Tzu Chi. In 2009, the foundation helped her friend undergo brain surgery. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Recycling points are posted all over the Manila North Cemetery, with one being outside the premises. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】