October 19, 2021
Tzu Chi volunteers distribute rice, relief goods in Santo Tomas, Pampanga
By Joy Rojas
Tzu Chi Foundation brought its latest rice and relief goods distribution to Santo Tomas, Pampanga, where 999 indigents claimed their goods at the New Evacuation Center in Blue Diamond, Barangay San Vicente. Five hundred residents from flood-prone resettlement area Bondoc Ville made up the first batch of recipients, while the second batch consisted of 499 residents from Barangay San Matias.
A fourth-class municipality, Santo Tomas is Pampanga’s smallest and youngest town. “With a modest budget, it depends on Internal Revenue Allotment, or funds sourced from the national agency, to survive,” says Mia Marquez, social welfare officer II.
It also relies on the hard work and dedication of its mayor, Gloria “Ninang” Ronquillo. “She has approached the different senators for assistance—from financial aid to vaccinations. She hardly ever sleeps!” says Marquez.
Santo Tomas is likewise grateful to longtime friend Tzu Chi Foundation, whose volunteers where there for the municipality when it was a catch basin of lahar after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. “Tzu Chi Foundation has been helping us since the time of my late husband,” says Ronquillo. “Thank you for the relief goods for my constituents. They’re a big help during this time of the pandemic, when so many people lost their jobs and businesses closed. Thank you, Tzu Chi volunteers, for your help.”
Among the first to arrive at the distribution site was Relly Quirimit. A resident of Bondoc Ville, Quirimit, who had polio when he was 3, worked for seven years as a repairer of broken pots in one of the many pottery stores of Santo Tomas. When business wasn’t doing well, he was let go along with other employees. The 44-year-old is a stay-at-home father of three and husband to laundry woman Maricel.
For now, the two 10-kg sacks of rice and various grocery items he received are a welcome reprieve from the struggles he and his family are going through. “Thank you for giving us this blessing,” he says. “I didn’t think I would be among those included in this distribution.”
Another beneficiary is Olivia Guiao. At 62, she works daily as her husband Reynaldo has been paralyzed for years, following a stroke. “I said, ‘Dear God, what’s happening? Please continue to take care of me and give me the strength to go on,’” she said. “I leave it up to Him. I never forget Him.”
He hasn’t forgotten her either. Thrilled with her relief goods, Guio plans to follow the teachings of Dharma Master Cheng Yen as shared by Tzu Chi volunteers, and give some of what she received to her kids. “As a mother, I can’t refuse them,” she says.
Tzu Chi volunteers recently distributed rice and relief goods to over 1,000 indigents in Angeles City and a community of Aetas from Tarlac.