Vegetarian hot meals were served to fire victims of the March 20 Barangay Damayang Lagi fire. Tzu Chi volunteers set up the mobile kitchen to cook for the residents for three days.
To help alleviate hunger in times of disaster, hot vegetarian meals were served to the fire victims of Barangay Damayang Lagi, Quezon City during the three-day distribution of meals last March 22 to 24, 2019.
Since food is one of the most basic necessities especially during times of disaster, 18 Tzu Chi volunteers from all over Metro Manila worked hand in hand to set up the mobile kitchen and cook 923 vegetarian meals for the residents during the first day.
The fire that started in the afternoon of last Wednesday, March 20, reached general alarm, meaning all available fire trucks in Metro Manila were deployed. It left a staggering head count of 5,874 individuals (data as of 6 am, March 22) homeless as it died down around 5 p.m. the same day.
Damayang Lagi resident Tom Delos Reyes, 59, said that due to the strong winds coupled with the fact that most of the houses were made of light materials, the fire spread quickly and was uncontrollable.
“Because the wind was strong, at first the wind was blowing towards the dike so the fire was not that big, then the wind went the other way and grew bigger because the houses were constructed with light materials. The area was almost wiped out in 30 minutes.” he said.
Most of the residents were at a lost since almost all lost everything in the fire. Tom, whose food business was gone is left to scavenge the remains of the kitchen utensils to sell them to the nearest junk shop.
“We really need a lot because almost all of our things are gone. We are also thinking of where to get the capital [for the business] to start (again)… these junk is all we have to survive in the days to come. We are really thinking about what will happen in the future.” he said.
To augment the need for food of the fire victims, the foundation set up a mobile kitchen in the area to serve vegetarian hot meals to the residents. Tina Say, wife of Tzu Chi International Medical Association’s (TIMA) Philippines head Dr. Antonio Say, also helped in the relief operations since they live close to the site of the fire.
Although tired, Tzu Chi volunteer Illeen Yruma was happy to be part of the relief operations.
“I’m really happy to be part of this relief operations… we were from Fortune, Marikina.” she said.
Volunteer Adelaida Flores said that she could no longer feel the exhaustion because of the happy faces of the recipients.
Local government officials and residents of the barangay were grateful for the help they received.
“It’s very good. There is a lot of food and your leaders [volunteers] are still inviting them [to eat]. The Tzu Chi organization is really great.” said barangay chairperson Renato Tanyag.
Rosemarie Lucis was grateful for the meals the foundation provided. When the fire hit their home, Rosemarie was away for her babysitting job. Luckily, all six of her children, ages 1-16, survived the fire.
On the second day of the meal distribution, 28 Tzu Chi volunteers came to Damayang Lagi to help cook about a thousand vegetarian meals.
Caroline Dela Cruz, 38, came as soon as the food was available. Having lost their home and their store to the fire, Caroline and her husband couldn’t even afford bread. After the fire, they lived on the side of the road with their two children ages six and eight. But when the younger child contracted fever, they sent their kids to their relatives for the meantime.
The food that Tzu Chi provided was enough to ease their hunger. “This really relieves our hunger. We are very thankful for [the food] because we have not been forgotten,” she said.
Mylene Dacapio has two children to care for, one being eight-year-old Leonard with general (sic) epilepsy. With her husband working as a security guard, she stays to take care of the children.
“It’s really hard [for the Dacapio family] because they have to start over again, so we all really have to help. With just Tzu Chi, our strength is limited because there are a lot of people,” said Tzu Chi volunteer Alice Cheng. …
Cheng added that giving food to the fire victims is just one way to make them feel loved.
“We are helping by giving them little joys and making them feel that they are loved.” Cheng said.
Aside from time and effort in cooking, Tzu Chi volunteer Catherine Tiu donated money for the fire victims’ meals. She couldn’t help but be conscious about the welfare of the victims.
“The ladle felt heavy while I was cooking. But whenever I thought about the victims struggling, the ladle suddenly felt lighter,” Tiu narrates.