February 14, 2023
Once beneficiaries, now Tzu Chi benefactors
By Joy Rojas
When people approach the Tzu Chi Foundation for medical or education assistance, livelihood opportunity, or disaster relief, it is the hope that someday they find themselves in a position to give instead of receive—or as Dharma Master Cheng Yen put it, “Their palms are facing up when they ask for help. But once they overcome their situation and stabilize, they can reciprocate with their palms facing down to help.”
Several of the foundation’s beneficiaries did just that at the New Year Blessing event on February 5 at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Campus (BTCC) in Sta. Mesa, Manila. Once bereft of resources to fund a costly operation or simply feed their families, Virgilio Rom, Jimmy Catabay, Lorenzo Jimeno, and Criselda Valderrama have become Tzu Chi benefactors, turning over to volunteers their latest pledges in coin banks filled to the brim.
It's a commitment Virgilio has kept since undergoing coronary angioplasty at the Chinese General Hospital in November 2021. Diagnosed with a blockage in his heart’s main artery, he was at a loss trying to figure out how to cover the expensive but necessary procedure. Through his wife Memia’s tireless efforts to secure financial aid for his condition, he became a Tzu Chi beneficiary and got the treatment he needed at no cost on his part. The foundation shouldered his hospital bills, and Dr. Kent Tan, the interventional cardiologist who performed the angioplasty, waived his professional fee.
“If they didn’t do the procedure, I wouldn’t have lived past five years,” says Virgilio. “I owe the extension of my life to them.”
Practicing the Tzu Chi principle of giving without expectation but with gratitude is how he reciprocates the foundation’s generosity. In addition to filling up coin cans, he earmarks a portion of his salary to Tzu Chi. “Even small change goes a long way and can help so many people,” he says.
One of thousands of jeepney drivers affected by the stoppage of public transportation at the height of the pandemic, Jimmy, secretary of MAPAPJODA (Marikina Pasig Pateros Jeepney Operators Drivers Association) Inc., resorted to approaching politicians and begging in the streets so he could provide for his family.
The three occasions when he and his group received rice and grocery relief from Tzu Chi proved a turning point. Although he had never heard of the foundation before, he quickly adopted Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s call to do good things whenever the opportunity arises. The recent New Year Blessing was the fourth time MAPAPJODA, Inc. presented Tzu Chi with coin bank pledges.
“We once needed help, now we can help others. It’s give-and-take,” says Jimmy. “Even if we don’t have much, it’s something we do whole-heartedly.”
The pandemic may have left the blind massage therapists of Visually Impaired Brothers for Excellent Service (VIBES), Inc. jobless for two years, but once lockdowns eased and personal care businesses were allowed to operate again, they wasted no time thanking Tzu Chi for the sacks of rice and goods they received in three tranches. Before turning over their donations during the New Year Blessing, Lorenzo and Criselda, VIBES executive director and deputy director, respectively, marked their organization’s 30th anniversary in August 2022 by gifting Tzu Chi with a sizeable pledge and a plaque of appreciation.
These days, Tzu Chi coin banks in VIBES branches around Metro Manila, Cavite, and Laguna are how massage therapists share their blessings with an organization that remembered them in the pandemic’s trying times. Criselda also encourages staffers who subscribe to Globe Telecom to donate their unused reward points to the Tzu Chi Foundation, one of the partner organizations of the mobile network provider.
Ultimately, if there’s anything Virgilio, Jimmy, Lorenzo, and Criselda have taught us, it’s that help can come in many ways and forms—even from those you least expect.
“That’s what we tell our visually impaired members during our values formation gatherings: We can’t go through life just taking and taking. And we can’t use being visually impaired as an excuse or reason to exempt us from doing good deeds,” says Criselda. “If we have the capacity to give, let’s do it.”