Generations of Tzu Chi Youth or Tzu Chings gathered at Jing Si Hall in Quezon City to celebrate 20 years of cultivating compassionate youths in the Philippines.
The spiritual home of Tzu Chi Youth in the country hosted a simple gathering of 116 current and alumni Tzu Chings on October 22. The homecoming made the young people recall the days of learning and sowing seeds of goodness.
Halfway through the celebration, the attendees played a game of trust. With a “river” in between, attendees must pass a ball from one side to the other without stepping out of bounds. By the end of the activity, the attendees realized the value of trust in accomplishing great and seemingly impossible things.
In the group sharing, the Tzu Chings from the earlier years related that upon seeing how the elders have grown old, they realized that they have been away for a long time while the older volunteers continued to work hard for the Tzu Chi missions.
Established in Taiwan in 1992, the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association, or Tzu Ching, aims to instill the spirit of mercy and compassion to the young generation. The association has since spread to other countries like the Philippines, South Africa, and the United States, going by different names but carrying its official mandate.
In 1997, after a trip to Hualien, Tzu Chi volunteers in the Philippines were inspired to establish the Tzu Chi Youth Philippines. From a modest group of 12, the group has grown to more than 500, each an extension of Master Cheng Yen’s mission to alleviate the suffering of all living beings.
In his closing remarks, Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Henry Yunez stresses the need for more helping hands. Not only are disasters growing in frequency, but the older generation needs younger people to succeed them in their endeavors.
“We just want you to know that time’s running out for everyone. For example, we’re getting old. We need young blood in this foundation,” Yunez says, adding that Dharma Master Cheng Yen, at 81 years old, has grown frailer.
“Master Cheng Yen needs every one of us. She just needs one finger from every volunteer and it will lessen her load. She has a huge load going uphill, even describing herself as an old cow pulling a heavy cart,” he adds.
The homecoming project head, Peggy Sy, called on to the Tzu Chings to take action. Sy hoped that with the homecoming, the Tzu Ching alumni can feel the warmth of the Tzu Chi family and be re-inspired to help in the missions. She shared that she has been in Tzu Chi since 1997 and has continued to stay for several reasons, one of which is because she witnessed how Tzu Chi has changed lives.
“To change more lives, we need everyone to work together. When we do, we can make this world safer and achieve Master’s vows of purifying hearts, harmonizing society, and freeing the world from disasters. Master is a teacher worth following and I urge everyone to get to know her and her teachings,” says Sy.
As with other Tzu Ching groups abroad, Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao hopes to instill Tzu Chi Youth’s values in schools to be able to gain support.
“We know that there are more and more disasters these days. And the mission of Master Cheng Yen in alleviating suffering brought by disasters and bringing harmony to society by purifying the minds of the people – this mission has become more urgent. We feel like we have a duty to lead these young people and inspire them to join along this path,” says Siao, Tzu Chi Youth alumnus from batch 1997.
The homecoming has given the alumni the chance to catch up with what Tzu Chi has done over the years they’ve been in limbo. Realizing the impermanence of life, 1997 alumnus Limarc Ngo shares his regret not being able to help out during two of the country’s worst disasters.
“When Typhoon Ondoy struck in 2009 and Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, I wasn’t there. Tzu Chi needed help during those times, but I wasn’t there. Where was I? Doing work,” he shares.
The need to stabilize his family business has taken a hold of Ngo in the years of his inactivity. Upon attending the homecoming, he realizes that he might not have the chance once he gets past 60.
“Now, I feel like if I kept doing work, I’ll end up not helping other people as I grow older. If I get to 50 or 60— it might already be too late in case I would be sick or become crippled (which hopefully won’t happen to me). I will really strive to make an effort to help Tzu Chi instead of staying at home watching TV and playing games,” Ngo shares.
Shermaine Ching has also been inactive for the past ten years due to her career. She hopes to make the best out of the time she has left in helping others.
“I like to buy myself more time and be more productive with the remaining time I have left,” she says.
The younger alumni like Kimberly Co Lim, batch 2009 Tzu Chi Youth, expressed their appreciation to Master Cheng Yen for helping them change for the better. Lim, for instance, never realized that she would change someone’s outlook by sharing about filial piety to children of the Tzu Chi Great Love village in Palo.
“One girl approached me the next day with her parents, showing me that she hugs and kisses her parents, and that she told them that she loves them. It was very touching, seeing that all I did was to share Master Cheng Yen’s teachings of showing love to our parents, then the next day she brought her parents,” Lim narrates.
“We can all make a difference in this world. We can all make this world a better place,” Lim adds.
Indeed, two things in life cannot wait: filial piety and helping those in need. The current and alumni Tzu Chings have come to realize such an important caveat, filling them with a sense of urgency to fulfill their duty as youths with compassion. Even if the rigors of life will wear a person down, taking time to share oneself with compassion to others is a sure way to a meaningful life.
The attendees watch a short number by current Tzu Chings.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
This group of Tzu Chings sings a medley of Tzu Chi songs as their fellows on stage perform the sign language.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
While not an alumna, Tzu Chi volunteer Pacita Chua has been the motherly figure among Tzu Chings, offering sound advice along with the teachings she shares.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi volunteer Tecson Lim (right) shares how he started in the Buddhist organization from his work as city administrator of Tacloban. He shares how his life changed when the volunteers arrived at Tacloban post-Yolanda to aid in its recovery efforts.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Henry Yunez (far left) is almost driven to tears by sharing his experience in helping Tacloban recover.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The attendees play a game where they have to pass the ball without going out of bounds. The activity teaches them the value of trust in accomplishing great things.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
A Tzu Chi volunteer shares his insights following the fun activity with his circle of fellow volunteers and former Tzu Ching.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Among the pioneer batch of 1997, Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao reiterates the importance of making the most out of time to help others, given the impermanence of life.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Having joined Tzu Chi Youth in 2009, alumna Kimberly Co Lim shares that she learned about filial piety during her time as a Tzu Ching. She saw how simply sharing the importance of filial piety could inspire children to put into practice.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Batch 1997 alumnus Limarc Ngo regrets not being able to help during two of the most devastating calamities in Philippine history: Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 and Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Busy with the family business, he shares that he will make do with the time he has remaining to do good deeds.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】