32-year-old Ramon Zamora survived the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that hit Leyte on July 6 with a miracle.
When the ground started shaking, the first thing Zamora did was save his wife and child. But while he successfully managed to get his family out of their house in Purok 7, Barangay Tongonan, Zamora failed to save himself. He got trapped inside their home and when the walls and their kitchen finally collapsed, Zamora fell with them.
He sustained an injury on his right palm and on his chest after chunks of cement fell over him. He was bloodied all over as he wrestled his way out of the rubbles. He recalls losing consciousness. He is only alive now because rescuers came just in time to revive him.
The aftermath was just as challenging as surviving the quake for the farmland Zamora is tilling was also destroyed. As much as he wants to find other jobs to keep their family afloat in these trying times, his injuries prevent him from doing so.
“I couldn’t work because my hand is still in pain; all I can do is to wait for help to come. But I am still finding a way to earn for my family, even if it’s just a small amount,” Zamora says. He has two kids.
On July 13, his family is one of the 525 quake-affected from Barangay Tongonan who received sacks of Taiwan rice during Tzu Chi’s relief aid distribution. Families with less than five members received a 20-kilo sack, while those with more than five members brought home 40 kilos of rice.
Tongonan is one of the Ormoc villages where an active fault line is located. The earthquake left surface ruptures here, persuading the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) to advise the residents that the area is no longer safe to be inhabited.
However, until they find a relocation site, the residents can only stay under makeshift tents outside the ruins of their homes, along the road, or in basketball courts.
In their situation, the rice aid from Tzu Chi means a burden lifted off their shoulders.
“This is what we really need at the moment – rice to cook,” says Jemuel Quillope, 27. “Our jobs [as construction workers in the geothermal plant] have been put on hold, so if these rice sacks did not come, it would be very difficult for us. It’s a good thing that Tzu Chi is here and they provided us with rice supply.”
Wilma Taneo is almost in tears after receiving her share of rice.
“Tzu Chi is such a big help because of all those who extended help to us, they’re the only one who gave us 20 kilos of rice!” she says. “Before this, we are just making do and stretching the two kilos or three kilos of rice we received among our eight member family.”
Prior to the actual distribution, a short program was conducted to lift the spirits of the quake victims. Tzu Chi volunteers from Manila, Cebu, Taiwan, and Ormoc performed sign languages of lively Tzu Chi songs that brought smiles on the faces of the victims. For a moment, their worries have been eased, knowing that they are loved and not forgotten.
Gina Pasiol gets emotional when Tzu Chi volunteers started doing the sign language for the song, “One Family.” Listening to it brought back the memories of the first time she came across Tzu Chi.
In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) flatted Pasiol’s home in Ormoc City Proper. Back then, Tzu Chi came to help her with rice, clothes, and cash assistance. After the storm, Pasiol’s family decided to move to Barangay Tongonan where they built a new home to settle in. They thought they were safe up in the mountains, until the earthquake happened.
Pasiol did not expect that Tzu Chi will come for the second time to bring her aid.
“From all my experiences, all I can say is that Tzu Chi is such a good organization because of the way they are helping people: quick, automatic, and personal. I can’t help my tears because I’m so grateful to God and to Tzu Chi for being here. Their help came from their hearts and they really worked together to spread love for one another,” she says.
Meanwhile, apart from the 40-kilo sacks of rice, Divina Gracia Punay, 38, will also bring home life lessons from Tzu Chi. The volunteers’ sharing about the Bamboo Bank Era, where Tzu Chi’s first donors saved fifty cents from their daily expenses to help the needy, left a mark on Punay’s heart.
“I will always remember Tzu Chi for teaching me not to just think about myself always but to also help others,” she says. “Starting today, I will start saving peso every day so that I can be of help to others as well. Just like how Tzu Chi is helping us right now and how happy we felt because of them, perhaps if we can help others in need through donations, we can make them happy too.”
In a short program prior to the relief distribution, Tzu Chi volunteer Ferdinand Dy reminds the quake victims to be grateful for having survived the earthquake and to use their lives meaningfully, giving it breadth. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
525 families in Barangay Tongonan benefitted from Tzu Chi Foundation’s distribution of 20-kilo sacks Taiwan rice on July 13. Said community is among the worst-hit areas in Ormoc and where ground ruptures were recorded. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
To ease the fears that the quake victims might have got from the disaster, Tzu Chi volunteers run a lively program with interactive sign language performances.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Gina Pasiol grows emotional as the song “One Family” is played. The song reminded her of how Tzu Chi also helped her in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Tzu Chi volunteer teaches the recipients the sign language for ‘thank you’ in Tzu Chi.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Tzu Chi volunteers cheer up the quake victims with the former’s lively performances during the relief program.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
In closing the program, Tzu Chi volunteers lead everyone in a prayer.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Quake victims in Barangay Tongonan, Ormoc prepared plastic bottles and put their coin donations inside. Touched by the sharing about giving and helping others in little ways, many of the quake victims pulled out donations from their pockets to somehow pay forward the help they are receiving.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
32-year-old Ramon Zamora receives a sack of rice during the distribution on July 13. He sustained injuries and also died from the earthquake.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
These quake victims happily return to their evacuation areas with an eased mind. For the next days, they won’t have to worry how to stretch the meager food they have among their family members.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Showing their deepest respect and gratitude to the quake victims, Tzu Chi volunteers bow before handing the sack of rice. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Jemuel Quillope, 27, says the sack of rice is what they need most right now as many of the villagers do not have jobs yet after the earthquake. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Wilma Taneo is all smiles as she gets the sack of rice from Tzu Chi. She says Tzu Chi is the only organization to have given them 20 kilos of rice. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
A warm embrace from the Tzu Chi volunteers ease the worries of the quake victims. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Divina Gracia Punay receives her family’s share of rice. She says she will never forget Tzu Chi as it taught her not to just think about herself but to do whatever is in her power to help the needy. She promises to start saving coins to donate to those who are in need. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
After the distribution, quake victims immediately went to cook the rice they received. Their supply of rice was used up the previous night. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】