Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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Home Global Activities Asia Tzu Chi Aid Comforts Quake Victims in Philippines

Tzu Chi Aid Comforts Quake Victims in Philippines

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Tzu Chi volunteers in the Philippines have provided relief to hundreds of victims of an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 which struck the island of Bohol, in the centre of the country, on October 15. The disaster has forced thousands of people to live in makeshift tents which hold three to five families.

The deadliest earthquake to hit the country in 23 years hit Bohol in Central Visayas. According to official reports, it left at least 211 people dead, nine missing and 762 people injured and damaged or destroyed more than 55,000 structures.

On October 19, the volunteers conducted a survey of the disaster survey; they distributed relief supplies in five towns in Bohol. One of them was Loon, which is reported to have had the largest number of fatalities and damage to structures, including churches and businesses. At least 54 people in the town were killed; the number of fatalities has been increasing every day as search and rescue operations continue.

On October 20, a total of 273 families benefited from the two relief distributions organized by the foundation at two evacuation sites in the town.

Rosalinda Dospueblos, a mother of three, could not hold back her tears on receiving from the volunteers a thermal blanket and an envelope containing 2,000 pesos. “I am so happy to receive help from you. I will use the money to buy food, as well as school supplies for my children to prepare them as soon as their classes resume,” she said. She arrived at the distribution point barefoot. “We were not able to save anything.”

The family of Edelfreda Demeterio also was unable to save anything during the earthquake, except for some clothes. “We have been here for six days now,” she said. “When it rains, we cannot sleep because the grass is damp. There are 20 of us in one tent. Most tents provide shelter to three to five families. It is especially difficult for my husband who is confined to a wheelchair and needs an oxygen tank for his chronic asthma. Most of my family members are still anxious due to continuous aftershocks.”

Despite their difficult situation, the residents have shown unwavering confidence in God’s mercy. Demeterio and her sister Gemma Murcia have been praying incessantly even in the evacuation site.

Inside their tent, a figure of Virgin Mary, her head cracked and tied with a rubber band, stands next to a statue of Sto. Niño or the Holy Child of Jesus.

“Our situation at present is very difficult but only God can help us. He will listen to all our prayers and we will accept whatever He gives us, including the outcome of such calamity,” said 63-year-old Murcia.

“We have to keep our faith,” Demeterio added. “I feel that it is the message of our patron saint, Our Lady of Light, whose image is unblemished despite the collapse of the entire church. It was not destroyed, while all that remains of our church now is ruins.”

Located in Barangay Napu, the Our Lady of Light church, or Kasilak in Visayan, is the biggest church in Bohol. It is 180 years old and considered to be one of the country’s most important historical treasures. Other ancient churches in the towns of Baclayon, Loboc, Dauis, Dimiao, Loay and Maribojoc have also been totally or partially destroyed by the earthquake. All are regarded as part of Bohol’s cultural heritage.

In the afternoon of October 20, while the volunteers were distributing relief cards to the victims who were staying in makeshift tents in the church plaza of Loon, Bohol experienced a 5.3-magnitude earthquake; it caused panic among residents.

During the distribution, Tzu Chi volunteers talked about the three kinds of help that people can receive: help from God, help from strangers and help from oneself. They also led a solemn prayer to comfort the hearts of the residents.

During the distribution, 38-year-old Naomi Calatraba could not help but cry after being reminded of the tragic earthquake. She said that Tzu Chi’s visit had given her hope. She was most grateful for the gift of a thermal blanket. For six days since the earthquake, she and her family were sleeping on the ground with cardboards cartons serving as their sleeping mats. They are staying with nine families in one tent. “When it rains, we are like wet chicks,” she said. “We are helpless. Rain is pouring even inside our tent.”

The relief distribution was held near the collapsed church, where the figures of Our Lady of Light and Christ Crucified are being kept for the moment. After the distribution, the residents showed their devotion to their patron saint by kissing the statues, while they held the thermal blankets and cash assistance given by the Tzu Chi Foundation.


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" Bodhisattvas are not idols made of wood; real Bodhisattvas are people who eat, talk, work, and relieve suffering in times of need. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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