On August 10, Tzu Chi volunteers arrived at the Andres Bonifacio Elementary School to bring relief to families who lost their homes in the wake of the August 7 fire at Barangay 23 Zone 2, Pasay City. More than 50 homes were razed to the ground and 112 families were displaced, caused by an unattended candle.
“One good thing that happened is that the fire took place in the afternoon, not early in the morning when people were still asleep. If that happened, who knows how many people would’ve ended up injured. Although, when the fire broke out, most of the men of the house were at work, which left the women and children to get out by themselves. I’m thankful that nobody had gotten injured,” barangay chairman Ramon Espiraz remarks.
For now, most of the displaced families are temporarily housed in Andres Bonifacio Elementary School, while others have returned to the fire site and have begun rebuilding their homes. Tzu Chi brought relief goods to 99 affected families, which includes sleeping mats, dinnerware, and much-needed clothes, among others.
“A lot of the residents are asking me on what will happen next. I told them, as long as you’re able to get a roof over your heads, you better do it quickly. My affected constituents can only stay at the nearby school until the end of the week before they have to clear out. I don’t want them to sleep out on the sidewalk, either, especially those who have families,” Espiraz adds.
During the outbreak of the fire, the residents had little time to haul out their belongings, and escaped with just the clothes on their backs.
“When we were evacuating from the fire, we were only able to save what clothes we had on at the time. Everyone here didn’t have enough clothing, so we had a problem with clothes for a while,” shares 61-year-old Teresita Ansale, one of the displaced residents.
She had been away from their house for less than five minutes, selling bottled water to passersby when she saw smoke rising from where she and her family lived. This prompted her to immediately rush back home.
“I made my way inside our house to try and save some clothes. But one of my children shouted to leave the clothes and just get out of the house because the fire was already spreading. Since I couldn’t get out of the house, I decided to jump from an open window instead. Thank goodness I didn’t get injured,” she adds.
For 43-year-old Concepcion De Lima, getting her children to safety took top priority. While she was out delivering some purchased items to a customer, her younger daughter Jozelle alerted her to their home on fire via mobile phone.
“I told my children to make their way out of our (burning) home. At the same time, I couldn’t help but worry because my other daughter, Krismet, has special needs. She easily panics when she hears a lot of loud noise. Thankfully, they were able to get away safely,” she narrates.
She then shares that, just like Teresita, lack of clothing has become one of the biggest concerns in the immediate aftermath. While they have been able to get by thanks to donations made by other charitable institutions, taking care of Krismet, who can become unpredictable when left alone, is a pressing concern.
“It’s a good thing she’s on her best behavior right now. When she isn’t, she’s very irritable and even I have difficulty keeping her under control. Add to the fact that she’s also blind and she has special needs,” she adds.
A fire victim humbly receives the claim stub prior to the relief distribution event held at the A. Bonifacio Elementary School in Pasay City. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
A Tzu Chi volunteer shares to the fire victims about the various works and good deeds of charity that the Foundation has accomplished throughout its years in the Philippines. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Tzu Chi volunteers lead the crowd as they pray for peace of mind, a harmonious society, and a disaster-free world. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Concepcion de Lima humbly hands over her family’s claim stub to a Tzu Chi volunteer as they proceed down the receiving line for relief goods. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Along with the other fire victims, Concepcion de Lima patiently moves along the receiving line, filling up her family’s alloted bag with relief goods. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Upon returning to the evacuation center, Concepcion de Lima unpacks one of the two bags of donated clothes for her daughter, Krismet, to examine. 【Photo by Erin Uy】