On August 27, a gathering organized by Tzu Chi volunteer Richard Tan aims to gather members of the Filipino-Chinese community in the Binondo area to promote the 21-day vegetarian lunch campaign, coinciding with the Hungry Ghost Month.
Master Cheng Yen instead wishes to celebrate it as an Auspicious Month, a time to be thankful for the various blessings and more blessings to come.
The event is held at the headquarters of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) and hosted by Tzu Chi volunteer Frances Lim. It aims to promote adapting a healthier, vegetarian lifestyle, as well as clearing misconceptions about the celebration of the Hungry Ghost Month. An estimated 300 guests and Tzu Chi volunteers came to the event.
Various Tzu Chi volunteers share about the various benefits vegetarianism can bring.
Tzu Chi volunteer Mary Chua attests that adapting a vegetarian lifestyle has led to a healthier, more positive outlook in life. Citing the benefits such as reducing environmental damage, she hopes that more people will consider the option in the future.
“I have been a vegetarian for four years now, and to be honest, it was my family that influenced me to take the same route. I was skeptical at first, because adapting a vegetarian diet meant that I wouldn’t be able to get certain nutrients from the food that I consume, plus the misconception that having a purely vegetarian diet meant that the food was tasteless. Upon trying various vegetarian dishes, I was surprised that not only was the option healthier, it also helped me improve on my health,” Chua shares.
The volunteers performed the sign language for the song “Adopting a Sincere Vegetarian Lifestyle” and taught it to the attendees for a better understanding. The song speaks of a vegetarian lifestyle as a way of cherishing the earth and showing compassion to all living beings.
After which, Tzu Chi volunteer Ophelia Sy speaks about how one can become a living bodhisattva and emulate the Buddha’s traits.
“One may consider doing good deeds as ‘having done their part.’ But can they really understand the message behind their actions? That’s why it is important to not only do good deeds, but to emulate the various good traits of the Buddha as well so that we can influence more people to do good and become living bodhisattvas themselves,” she says.
Tzu Chi volunteers Michael Siao and Chieh Fang Uy discuss the benefits of going vegetarian and lessening one’s negative karma. They also touch the topic on misconceptions about the seventh lunar month, such as burning sacrificial joss paper and incense sticks for the dead that contribute to environmental pollution. Serving non-vegetarian food as offering meals that results in food waste, along with starting up new ventures in businesses, or moving into new homes as well as getting married during the seventh lunar month are normally discouraged.
Outside the event venue, Victoria Ko, an attendee, handed over her family’s donation to Tzu Chi volunteer Linda Chua, manning the Jing Si products booth. She shares that the donation comes not just from her personal funds, but from her nephew’s family as well.
“I want to take the lead in giving a donation to Tzu Chi, because I know how much goodness the Foundation has done for those who are in need. I wanted to hand over the donation to the Jing Si Books & Café staff in Soler, but I was advised to come here so that I could hand it over directly in person,” Ko shares.
She also adds that Tzu Chi’s celebration of the Ghost Month as an Auspicious Month is a good way to clear out the misconception among the Filipino-Chinese community.
“Instead of avoiding starting new businesses, going on trips, or even getting married, we should take advantage of the fact that doing good deeds during this month should be encouraged. We should start by doing at least one good deed a day, especially now that we are celebrating the Auspicious Month,” Ko adds.
One of the youngest attendees in the event, six-year-old Bryce Siason, surprised the staff at the Jing Si booth by buying “Master of Love and Mercy” rather than one of the books meant for the younger audience. Asked why he chose this particular book, he replied: “I want to read it because this book shows the teachings of Master Cheng Yen.”
Siason’s exposure to the Tzu Chi culture came from the Jing Si workshop for children held at the Jing Si Books & Café from April 21 to June 9.
“When I went to the Tzu Chi Summer Camp, I learned about discipline and learned that these are the teachings of Master Cheng Yen,” Siason adds.
Victoria Ko prepares to hand over her family’s donation to Tzu Chi volunteer Linda Chua outside the event proper at the Jing Si products booth. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
A Tzu Chi volunteer goes over the specifics of the vegetarian noodles sold at the Jing Si products booth to an attendee, discussing the ingredients used to make the product. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
The Jing Si products booth is a flurry of activity as attendees look over the available products before the start of the event. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Tzu Chi volunteers Liza Lin (left) and Mary Chua (right) share their stories about how they were influenced by Tzu Chi to go down the path of being vegetarians after joining. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
A central part of the “Adopting a Sincere Vegetarian Lifestyle” sign-language song is making the vow to adapt a healthier lifestyle filled with joy and hope. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
The guests in attendance then raise their hands above their head by following the Tzu Chi volunteers’ lead, adapting a sincere vow. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Victoria Ko (left) follows the attendees’ lead and listens to the explanation on the significance behind the hand gesture. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Instead of picking out the children’s books, Bryce Siason immediately takes the book titled “Master of Love and Mercy”, which is a biography telling of the Master’s early life, and the years that they have spent after founding and leading the Tzu Chi foundation. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Six year-old Bryce Siason points out the “Master of Love and Mercy” book to a Tzu Chi volunteer, and expressing his intent that he wants to buy this particular book. 【Photo by Nancy Que】
Tzu Chi volunteers take a few moments to speak with the attendees during the vegetarian dinner. 【Photo by Erin Uy】