October 26, 2021
This PWD doesn’t play the victim card
By Joy Rojas
At Tzu Chi Foundation, the distribution of rice and relief goods to a community is a meticulous, months-in-the-making process. There are local government unit officials to coordinate with, and a venue for a large-scale event to secure and set up. Volunteers also conduct numerous site visits to check on the veracity of potential beneficiaries and their actual living conditions.
If the site visit to Bondoc Ville in Sapa, Santo Tomas, Pampanga, isn’t easy to forget, it’s because the resettlement area is perennially submerged in water. Monsoon rains and typhoons contribute to the flooding, but so does the fact that there are more rivers that converge in Pampanga than anywhere else in the country. Many towns in Pampanga and the neighboring provinces of Bulacan, Tarlac, and Nueva Ecija also sit on ancient lakes and swamps.
“During home visits, we saw very poor people, many without a proper home,” says Tzu Chi volunteer Mary Anne Lu. “We feel so [heartbroken] from their situation because we see 10 family members living in one small house.”
“Most of them lost their jobs during the pandemic,” adds Tzu Chi volunteer Pansy Ho. “We were able to see how they live and we hope we can help them.”
Inspiration can come even in these most unfavorable of circumstances. Now 47, Bondoc Ville resident Marvin Basilio was 3 when he was stricken with polio on his left leg.
If he didn’t let it get in the way of his goals in life, it’s because of something his mother once told him. “When I’m gone, poor you. You have a disability, your siblings can’t feed you because they have families of their own, and they don’t have the means to look after you,” he says. “Three months after she told me that, she passed away.”
But her powerful message stuck with him, and continues to impact his life in so many ways. Basilio, vice president of the Tomasian Association for Persons with Disability, was part of Santo Tomas’s pot-making industry before he learned how to drive a motorcycle from an older brother. A tricycle driver since 1993, he used his earnings to invest in his own motorcycle and is just months away from completing payments. Financial aid that he received from the municipality went to purchasing a sidecar for his motorcycle.
His attitude towards life is to work around challenges, not give in to them. Whenever Bondoc Ville floods reach a foot high inside his home, he sleeps on a chair in the tricycle terminal and has his wife stay with her sister. On days he is unable to drive his tricycle due to lockdown restrictions, he tries to squeeze in a trip or two using other drivers’ tricycles so he can earn a little.
Still, life’s hardships can be overwhelming even for someone as resilient as Basilio. “Sometimes, we just don’t have the means to buy food,” he says.
As one of Bondoc Ville’s 500 recipients of Tzu Chi’s rice and relief goods last October 16, this beneficiary is beyond grateful. “I cooked the rice already,” he announces. “My wife says it’s good!”
Basilio looks forward to the day he can ably support his wife and their baby on the way—not with handouts but with money earned through his efforts. The TESDA-certified technician wants to study some more and add to his knowledge of maintenance and repair of basic home appliances.