On its seventh year, Tzu Chi’s recycling activity on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days takes to the cemeteries all over Metro Manila, Rizal, and Leyte. Over a thousand volunteers spent the traditional holiday keeping their assigned cemeteries free of unwanted waste through recycling.
A team of 21 Tzu Chi volunteers from Barangay Tumana, Marikina City spent Undas keeping Manila Chinese Cemetery clean amidst the influx of visitors. The 5.4-hectare memorial park in Sta. Cruz, Manila is the final resting place for most Filipino-Chinese within the walls of majestic mausoleums bearing their proud clan name.
Through rain and an inundated recycling station, the volunteers collected a total of 657 kilos of plastic bottles, cartons, and other recyclables. Routine patrols along the main roads and narrow alleys between tombs contributed in maintaining the cleanliness of the cemetery.
Juancho Pacheco, the cemetery administrator, is grateful to Tzu Chi for the yearly activity. At his instruction, cemetery workers provide as much support as they can to the volunteers. One such instance involves donating some of the recyclables they collected in their own routine patrols to the foundation. They also cook vegetarian meals for volunteers every year.
“We’ve seen a drastic change over the years. The visitors have noticed the cemetery being cleaner, even adding that Tzu Chi has been a big help. They’ve also learned a great deal about recycling, not just disposing waste outright,” says Pacheco.
“Every year, we always expect Tzu Chi to come [for its recycling activity] so that they can help the community here,” Pacheco adds.
Manila Chinese Cemetery is one of the initial two cemeteries to benefit from Tzu Chi’s cemetery recycling program when it started in 2010. The other is Manila North Cemetery.
Tzu Chi volunteer Eva Valois leads the concerted effort through the rain, which inundated the lone recycling station in the cemetery. Despite inclement weather brought by the passing of Tropical Depression Ramil (Damrey), the volunteers made their routine patrols in main roads and alleyways between tombs. Valois and her fellow volunteers aren’t about to miss out on a yearly opportunity to thank Dharma Master Cheng Yen for her help.
“This activity only happens once a year. We can visit our departed loved ones anytime. This activity is our only chance to give back to Master Cheng Yen, so we’re dedicated to the work rain or shine,” says Valois, a victim of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009.
The sight of Tzu Chi’s recycling station has become common every Undas at the cemetery. Regular visitors have been giving their empty plastic bottles and other recyclables to Tzu Chi out of habit.
“I feel glad when visitors call my attention to get their recyclables from them,” remarks Tzu Chi volunteer Ma. Fides Tandas, a five-year veteran of the activity. For her, this is her preferred way of showing gratitude to the foundation that helped her son earn a degree.
The recycling activity has been an eye-opener for college Tzu Chi scholar Kate Gelsie Nacilam. As a scholar, she’s no stranger to lessons on environmental protection, which is a part of Tzu Chi’s humanity class curriculum. But sorting recyclables for the first time made her realize some things worth the exhaustion that comes with the job.
“I realized that we must open our eyes to the idea of recycling as early as childhood to be able to help not just the environment but also ourselves. So that we can benefit from a cleaner and greener world,” says Nacilam.
Over 1,000 Tzu Chi volunteers this year mobilized for the recycling activity in nine cemeteries namely Loyola Memorial Parks in Marikina City and Parañaque City, Manila North and South Cemeteries in Manila, Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City, Holy Cross Memorial Park in Quezon City, Manila Chinese Cemetery in Manila, Paraiso Memorial Park in San Mateo, Rizal, and Himlayang Pilipino in Quezon City.
Tzu Chi volunteers in Leyte also conducted recycling activities in five cemeteries in Ormoc and Tacloban City. The yearly activity aims not only to keep the environment clean but also teach people how to do so.
Having nearly fallen down, the Tzu Chi standard is retied back to the recycling station. Bad weather added to the difficulty of gathering recyclables in the midst of Undas, but the volunteers carried on.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi volunteers make a few night rounds to gather more recyclables. For the volunteers’ safety, they were only restricted to the cemetery’s main road and other lit areas.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The volunteers only get a brief rest at night before they make their rounds once more. They make resting spots out of anything they can get their hands on. In this case, this volunteer rests on two parallel chairs.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Lunchtime comes to the hardworking volunteers courtesy of the cemetery staff. Tzu Chi’s recycling activity has become such a common sight over the past seven years that the staff has decided to help them any way they can.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Under a light drizzle, Tzu Chi scholar Kate Gelsie Nacilam (left) experiences recycling firsthand. Learning about environmental protection in Tzu Chi’s monthly humanity classes, Nacilam feels happy to finally do her part in saving Mother Earth.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Cemetery workers share their load of recyclables with the Tzu Chi volunteers at the station. With the two parties working together, visitors have noticed the cemetery being much cleaner than before.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Before loading, sacks of recyclables are weighed for recording. This pair of sacked plastic bottles weighs an average of 10 kilos total. Overall, the volunteers managed to collect 657 kilos of recyclables.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi volunteers load the sacks of recyclables to be brought to their final destination: the recycling center at the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】