Since its acquisition from the Sisters of Mary in 2007, the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila has been home to many of Tzu Chi’s activities. Not only does the complex serve as a logistics hub for relief operations all over the country, it also houses Tzu Chi’s Livelihood Training Program (LTP). Hundreds of youths, whose chances to lead better lives would’ve otherwise been quashed by poverty, are realizing their dreams through lucrative work.
The expansion of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Education, however, will demand more resources out of the former Boystown and Girlstown schools. For instance, the classrooms on the third and fourth floors of the primary building have fallen into disuse. Desk chairs and equipment gather the dirt and dust of a bustling metro, rarely called upon if at all to help with Tzu Chi’s activities.
But soon, these rooms may find use as Tzu Chi volunteers on December 18 began a concerted cleanup activity. As many as 30 volunteers from Barangays Old Balara and Pasong Tamo, Quezon City grabbed a mop or sweeper and got to cleaning despite bad weather.
“Hopefully, next year starting January, we can come up with several livelihood programs. Definitely, we’ll be using a lot of these classrooms,” says Henry Yunez, Tzu Chi Philippines CEO, overseeing the operation.
Tzu Chi plans to expand its LTP to include various courses such as machine operation and call center skills training. In November, it formally accepted its first batch of 23 students into the Machine Operation Class (MOC), a two-month program to train students in the operation of industrial machinery. As of this writing, the students have begun their on-the-job training in factories owned by the businesses of Tzu Chi volunteers.
Yunez adds that the cleaning activity won’t be a one-time affair. As a second home to Tzu Chi volunteers, the Great Love Campus must be treated as any volunteer would treat their own homesteads.
“As we clean the place, we also clean our minds. After cleaning, we hope that we can maintain this place for as long as we’ll be using it,” Yunez says.
Cleaning the Great Love Campus, as goes the teachings of Tzu Chi, is also cleaning one’s heart and mind. A soul free of afflictions and other negative energies is necessary for a person to cultivate goodness in himself and others.
Tzu Chi volunteer Lino Sy finds the importance of the cleanup activity on the third floor multi-purpose hall. Statues of Buddha and two bodhisattvas gather dust and dirt in the hall, prompting him to clean them immediately.
Indeed, the statues are significant to Tzu Chi, especially the Philippines chapter. The Shakyamuni Buddha, Guan Yin the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and Earth Store the Bodhisattva of the Great Vow have watched over the fledgling chapter since its formation in 1994. Sy, although joining Tzu Chi a year later, has seen the statues move four times. The statues’ first home, in fact, wasn’t far from the current location of the Jing Si (Still Thoughts) Hall in Quezon City.
“The Buddha reminds us to follow his teachings. Guan Yin reminds us to do so with compassion. Earth Store reminds us to keep the Great Vow in mind,” explains Sy.
Sy also recalls a story where one of Buddha’s disciples attained enlightenment by simply sweeping and cleaning. The disciple came to Buddha crying due to his supposed inability to learn the Dharma, to which Buddha gave him a broom. Buddha told his disciple to “sweep and clean,” all while saying his teachings over and over. After much sweeping and cleaning, the disciple realized the truth: “All of the dust inside human beings originally is caused by only one thing: desire. Only wisdom can overcome desire.”
The enlightened disciple, Ksudrapanthaka, has since become one of Buddha’s most renowned disciples.
The volunteers, understanding the importance of their task, went to work with gusto. At first, some were astonished by the amount of dust and dirt blanketing the rooms, walls, and chairs. Nevertheless, Tzu Chi volunteer Shirley Pista says she would clean the room the same way she would clean her home.
“If you don’t want to see a dirty home, apply the same dedication as you would at home here,” says Pista.
“Tzu Chi has taught us to cultivate a clean spirit before you cultivate that of others. If you’re not clean, you won’t be able to do such things to others,” she adds.
Water is essential in cleaning the classrooms, but the floors lacked a functioning water line. The few men available, including 68-year-old Jose Obligacion, have to carry half-filled buckets of water from the second floor comfort room. Despite suffering from asthma, he didn’t stop.
“Tzu Chi gives us relief aid, as well as teachings on how to live a meaningful life. In return, we give our all in this activity,” says Obligacion.
A Tzu Chi volunteer doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty while gathering dust and dirt into a box.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
It only takes a few strokes on a dirty classroom before this mop requires cleaning with water.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The volunteers find larger debris inside this derelict comfort room such as this wooden door. Some rooms have become storage areas for such things.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
With utmost respect, Tzu Chi volunteer Lino Sy cleans the statues of Buddha and two bodhisattvas. The statues are as old as Tzu Chi Philippines itself, if not older, having seen the chapter grow over two decades.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Unused chairs, still in good condition, get the cleanup treatment. A simple damp cloth will see these chairs be used in Tzu Chi’s plethora of activities.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi volunteer Shirley Pesta feels at home cleaning this chair. She says she treats the Great Love Campus the same way she treats her home.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi volunteer Molita Chua coordinates the cleanup drive at the Great Love Campus. She hopes for more volunteers to join the activity.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Every window panel isn’t spared the Tzu Chi volunteer’s cleaning rag. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Despite his age and his asthma, 68-year-old Jose Obligacion goes back and forth carrying water one floor up. Without a working water line on the third floor, Tzu Chi volunteers have to fetch water on the second floor in half-filled buckets.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Clean chairs are arranged neatly inside a classroom cleaned down to the last nook and cranny by Tzu Chi volunteers.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】