On its sixth three-in-one celebration of Buddha Day, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi Day, Marikina City bears witness to a new chapter of Tzu Chi’s continuing story in the Philippines.
More than 10,000 participants and guests from all over Tzu Chi’s many communities in Metro Manila and Cavite flocked to Marikina Sports Center on May 14 for the annual celebration. In one of many milestones of this long-standing tradition, rows of rectangular blocks no longer formed the definitive Great Love formation. Instead, thousands of men, women, and children from all walks of life formed up in the shape of a radiant lapis lazuli, a kind of blue gemstone.
The result is a stunning display of change, rather the dedication to pursue such changes for the benefit of more families in need around the country.
Since 2012, this stadium at the heart of a grateful city has become the annual pilgrimage for those whose lives changed for the better thanks to Great Love. Local officials took the chance to express their utmost gratitude to the Buddhist organization for its effort in uplifting the human spirit in the darkest of nights.
Halfway through her opening remarks, San Mateo mayor Cristina Diaz couldn’t help but tear up on stage. She recalled the nightmare known as Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana), which left much of the lowland town under feet of mud for days. Through a cash-for-work program, the entire town mobilized to get rid of the mud. Within weeks, normal life resumed in San Mateo.
“Our people are living witness how Tzu Chi enabled thousands of our community members to rise above the mud and rubble brought about by rampaging waters and flood. But more than that, Tzu Chi ignited in our people once again a sense of brotherhood, a sense of sisterhood, of a true bayanihan amidst the hopelessness and helplessness,” Diaz says in her speech.
Ever since Tzu Chi stepped in to help a battered people get back on their feet, she has lived her life under the guidance of Jing Si wisdom.
“Even as the leader of my town, the teachings of Master Cheng Yen still serve as my guide. Day to day, I check my book on [Jing Si] aphorisms, as well as refer to all her teachings,” she adds.
The wife of Jose Rafael “Paeng” Diaz, who now serves as vice-mayor and also present during the celebration, Cristina Diaz succeeded him in 2016. This year’s celebration marks her first attendance as mayor of San Mateo, having been a staunch Tzu Chi volunteer community since Ondoy.
Also marking a debut attendance as mayor is Markina’s own Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro, who succeeded Del De Guzman also in 2016. A city councilor during post-Ondoy, Teodoro saw the sincerity of the volunteers in their efforts to clean up the city, namely the three worst-hit villages: Barangays Nangka, Tumana, and Malanday. These communities now house hundreds of Tzu Chi volunteers since that day of hope.
“This is my first Buddha Day as mayor of Marikina, and it’s enlightening on my part. If every citizen of Marikina would learn the teachings of Buddha, such as letting go of our personal desires, if we could only be more compassionate and caring to each other, we would have a more harmonious community and a progressive society,” says Teodoro.
Showing their selfless servitude to the public, the two mayors washed the feet of their fortunate constituents during the program. Lenma Naive, who lives in Barangay Marikina Heights, was happy to see her mayor washing her feet.
“I’m really happy that the mayor washed my feet. Really, really happy,” says Naive.
The brief experience reminded Teodoro of what it means to be a leader, a necessity given that he’ll be leading Marikina in the years to come.
“A leader must always be humble. We’re here today to be reminded that a public servant must serve others. Today’s events [like the washing of the feet] have been meaningful for me,” says Teodoro.
Reaching far and wide
The importance of the three-in-one celebration goes beyond honoring Buddha, mothers of the world, and Master Cheng Yen along with Tzu Chi as a whole. As the Philippines grows more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it will be struck by more powerful calamities more often. It’s for this reason that the celebration also carries the intent of spreading the teachings of not just Tzu Chi but Buddhism in general.
Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Henry Yunez stressed the importance of holding such celebrations as an opportunity to teach. But he also stressed that the celebration isn’t meant to convert people to Buddhism.
“Buddhism is important in the sense that we have no conflict with any other religion. Buddhism is a philosophy, a basic way of life of the human being. Spreading Buddhism to everybody is a necessity in this troubled world now,” says Yunez, who participated in the event for the first time as CEO.
From its works to its many teachings, Tzu Chi continues to enjoy recognition among localities that are predominantly Catholic. Some of Buddhism’s teachings, in fact, can more or less be found in Catholic doctrine, namely filial piety.
“[Tzu Chi] has the different precepts, as stated in their teachings. But actually, it’s not only based alone in the Buddhist beliefs but they’re sharing what they have. They share the pure love in their hearts,” says Diaz, pertaining to the Ten Precepts.
Mayor Teodoro hopes to work with the Buddhist organization during his tenure, helping to bring love and care to his people as the mayors before him did.
“I’ve seen the importance of values. They need to take these values to heart. I believe Tzu Chi can teach them because I’ve seen the transformation of our fellowmen, especially after the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana),” he says.
Fresh from gracing Tacloban and Ormoc’s respective three-in-one celebrations, Tzu Chi Philippines deputy-CEO Alfredo Li graces the main event in Marikina and welcomes its special guests. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The May 14 celebration marks the debut attendance of Marikina City mayor Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro, who succeeded Del De Guzman in 2016. Even before his tenure as mayor, he has maintained cordial relations with Tzu Chi. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Halfway through her opening remarks, San Mateo mayor Cristina Diaz tears up as she recalls the nightmares of Typhoon Ondoy. The wife of former mayor Jose Rafael “Paeng” Diaz, Cristina thanks Tzu Chi for its years of service to the people of her small town in Rizal. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
In keeping with the spirit of Mother’s Day and of humility, Marikina City mayor Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro (right) joins his fellow guests in washing the feet of their constituents. Teodoro washed the feet of Lenma Naive, a resident of Barangay Marikina Heights. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Cristina Diaz hugs the mother whose feet she washed in a simple ceremony of holding mothers in high esteem. 【Photo by Heng Choun Lee】
The first of many participants partake in the cleansing of their spirits by bathing their hands in pure water. More than 10,000 participants and guests joined the annual blessing. 【Photo by Heng Choun Lee】
Tzu Chi volunteer Manny Go (left) leads participants in the walking meditation portion of the event. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】