Between June 17 and 24, 2008, Typhoon Frank (Fengshen) unleashed heavy rains and strong winds that devastated the Philippines. More than 500 people reportedly died and thousands of families were affected by the typhoon as it dropped torre ntial rains that caused flooding and mudslides in the different regions in the country. The provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique in Region VI; and Leyte and Eastern Samar in Region VIII were among the provinces directly hit by Typhoon Frank.
After Typhoon Frank’s (international codename Fengshen) onslaught in the country, Tzu Chi Foundation, Philippines immediately mapped out relief operations for the thousands of people severely affected by the typhoon in different cities and provinces nationwide.
Instantly after learning the sad fate of the passengers and crew members on board the capsized Sulpicio Lines ferry MV Princess of the Stars, Tzu Chi volunteers not only extended material aid to the families of the victims and the surviving passengers of the sunken ferry, but also helped lessen their grief and sorrow on the tragedy.
The Tzu Chi volunteers also prompted to respond to the needs of the residents of Dreamland, a depressed community built along the shores of Rosario, Cavite, who were also devastated by the typhoon.
The residents, who are long-term beneficiaries of the foundation, expressed their surprise with the coming of the volunteers and were all the more grateful for their constant and timely help as they strive to recover from the devastation they’ve experienced.
Hundreds of indigent families from Isla Puting Bato and Parola in Tondo, Manila were also provided with aid after most of their houses were washed away during the typhoon’s surge. In their pursuit to extend sympathy to the typhoon victims in the Philippines, Tzu Chi volunteers from Malaysia came to the country to help with the preparations for the relief activity in Isla Puting Bato that benefitted 470 typhoon-stricken families.
In July 2008, Tzu Chi Foundation held two large-scale relief operations in the provinces of Aklan and Ilo-ilo, which according to reports have suffered greatly from the storm.
Witnessing selfless love in Tzu Chi’s aid to Aklan
On June 21, 2008, Typhoon Frank caused massive damages to the Western Visayan region, particularly in the provinces of Aklan and Iloilo. Typhoon Frank destroyed billions worth of properties, swamping countless houses, establishments and roads, and knocking off power and communication lines. Officials described the catastrophe as the worst flooding the region has yet experienced.
After sending batches of Tzu Chi volunteers to survey the province of Aklan on July 3 to 5, the foundation selected the three worst-hit municipalities of Kalibo, Numancia and Banga to be given aid in the two-day extensive relief operations.
With the help of the local government, Tzu Chi volunteers were able to gather and hand over relief items to 4,995 typhoon-stricken families in Aklan and shared with them their great love and compassion which the Aklanons returned with words of thanks in between tears, smiles and tight embraces.
On July 12 and 13, attended by 214 Tzu Chi volunteers, the relief missions had benefited 2,731 families in Kalibo, 1,417 in Numancia and 847 families in Banga, each of them received blankets from Taiwan, as well as 10 to 50 kilograms of rice and monetary assistance given in proportion with the number of members in each family, under Master Cheng Yen’s wish.
The volunteers also distributed Tzu Chi school bags and school supplies to a total of 700 students in Bulwang Elementary School and Camansi Sur Elementary School in Numancia.
“In my 65 years of life, I have never experienced such a compassionate way of help, until Tzu Chi came into our lives. The whole province of Aklan wishes to thank Master Cheng Yen and all the volunteers of the Tzu Chi Foundation,” Aklan Governor Carlito Marquez said after personally witnessing Tzu Chi’s relief missions as he assisted the volunteers since the first day of the stub distribution.
Feeling down and weak on how to go back to their normal lives, Father Jose Gualberto Villasis, Dean of Aklan Catholic College, is back on his feet again after the Tzu Chi volunteers borrowed and cleaned up the school grounds for their rice repacking and relief distribution.
“Master Cheng Yen, you have given me the reason not to worry, instead act and help others so that the whole province will recover. When you sent the Tzu Chi volunteers here, we saw selfless love. There is no reason for us not to help ourselves. I am very thankful that this opportunity bounded us to be as one children of God and Buddha,” said Father Jose Villasis. Father Villasis also joined Tzu Chi volunteers in leading the disaster survivor to pray for their recovery and peace in the country. Many victims were moved to tears as Master Cheng Yen’s letter is read during the program held before the relief distribution.
In the relief distribution in Numancia, the office of Mayor Elverita Templonuevo awarded a plaque of appreciation to the Tzu Chi Foundation for their heartfelt charitable efforts.
“Master Cheng Yen, we are experiencing a form of healing for what you and the rest of the Tzu Chi Foundation did. Your love inspired us to move on and rebuild our community,” Mayor Templonuevo said as she thanked the Founder of the organization.
Unprecedented scale of assistance received by Iloilo residents
Iloilo seriously grieved over the multi-million worth of destruction it sustained after the wrath of Typhoon Frank. Reports said that almost ninety per cent of its municipalities was inundated by floodwaters that came from rivers, creeks and dams that overflowed tons of water during the typhoon.
Thick sludge of eroded soils from the mountain ranges of Central Iloilo swathed the flooded areas in the province. Hundreds of people lost their lives to what the residents said was the first destructive disaster that ever happened in the province.
The survey conducted by the 14 Tzu Chi volunteers in the three districts of Jaro1, Jaro2 and Mandurriao in Iloilo showed them the hardships of the residents who had to bear the loss of their houses, belongings and even loved ones.
On July 27, 2008, Tzu Chi staged a relief operation that provided a total of 1,762 families 10-50 kilos of high-quality rice and cash assistance, as well as thermal blankets made out of recycled PET bottles. The aid was given in proportion with the number of members in each family receiving relief. The Ilonggos were just as overwhelmed with the outpour of kindness they have received from Tzu Chi.
Attended by 87 Tzu Chi volunteers, eleven of whom came from Tzu Chi Cebu Chapter and two came all the way from Taiwan, the relief distribution served 502 families in Jaro1; 1,064 in Jaro2; and, 196 in Mandurriao. The relief operation covered a total of 14 barangays.
Aside from the relief distribution, Tzu Chi Foundation also held a medical mission at Balantang Elementary School. Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) Doctors Antonio Say, Suryanny Wang, Hui Sing Liu, Imelda Chua, Nelia Malubay and Lilia Tan shared their expertise and kind hearts to a total of 895 patients in pediatrics, general medicine and ophthalmology who received free treatment and medicines.
“I don’t think anybody has put that much effort and heart into helping just like what the group of Tzu Chi did for Iloilo. This (large) scale of help is unprecedented,” Dr. Karen Francia, an ophthalmologist from the Iloilo Doctors Hospital said as she was seeing her fellow Ilonggos go back to their homes filled with happiness.
That day, Tzu Chi also built a house for then 67-year-old Proceso Jaro for the first time. A resident of Barangay Dungon B, Jaro, Iloilo City, Jaro’s six-by-eight-meter nipa house was completely washed away by Typhoon Frank.
With the help of Mr. Oscar Chua, a member of the Philippine Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Incorporated (PCCCII- who committed to provide the needed building materials, and barangay officials and volunteers headed by Boy Grecia and Reynaldo Caballero, “Lolo Isoy’s” house was rebuilt on July 27, as the Tzu Chi volunteers have targeted.
Tzu Chi volunteers also brought household supplies such as mattress, pillows and blankets, kitchen and eating utensils; basic food supplies such as sugar, oats, milk, juice and cooking oil; and personal effects for “Lolo Isoy” such as new clothes, slippers and hygiene products for the elderly. Free grooming services were also given by the volunteers during that happy and meaningful “house blessing” for the elderly.