July 23, 2021
2020 A Year in Review
By Daniel Lazar
Looking back at this past year, we will always remember it as one of the most difficult years in recent memory. Life in the Philippines, and around the globe, was characterized by devastating natural disasters, the turmoil of a global COVID-19 pandemic, and the isolating effects of a general quarantine. While it has been a difficult year, it has also demonstrated to what lengths people are willing to go to and help one another, and how much Master Cheng Yen’s teachings have influenced the people of the Philippines.
Foreshadowing a Challenging Year
It all started with the Taal volcano eruption in January which left tens of thousands displaced and homeless and unable to return to their farms and livelihood in the Batangas region. Heavy ash and smog blanketed most of the Philippine skies, hampering rescue efforts. The Taal eruption foreshadowed a year fraught with uncertainty and hardships.
In March, we saw rising numbers of a new and highly infectious virus which swept through the country, overwhelming medical facilities. Experiencing a massive surge of new patients and dwindling personal protective equipment and medical supplies, doctors, nurses and other medical frontlines were literally fighting for theirs and their patients’ lives.
Late summer and fall brought tropical storms and heavy rainfall, but none were more devastating this year than Super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses. Battering the Philippines within only ten days of each other, both cyclones left over half a million people displaced and homeless, and caused severe flooding, from which many are still recovering.
A Ray of Hope
Yet, amidst the chaos of a pandemic and several natural disasters, hope always appeared wearing blue and white. In February, the Tzu Chi Foundation sent volunteers with supplies for evacuees in Ibaan which included clothing and other every day needs. Displaced families were provided with kitchen supplies including gas stoves, utensils, pots & pans and drawer storage units, among other provisions, to help with daily necessities.
In addition, the Tzu Chi Foundation also provided P15,000 vouchers to families in the hardest hit area of Agoncillo, Batangas, to help them purchase building materials and supplies to rebuild their homes.
Amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tzu Chi Philippines, with help from Tzu Chi volunteers in China, and generous support from Cebu Pacific Airlines, worked tirelessly to help hospitals and medical frontliners nationwide, as well as local communities.
The help extended resulted in the procurement and distribution of more than nine tons of medical PPEs, beds and blankets for medical frontliners, 2,000 tons of rice, and over 5.5 tons fresh vegetables to help farmers affected by the pandemic. Tzu Chi volunteers even donated acrylic sheets to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to manufacture face shields.
With rice relief operations carried out by the Tzu Chi Foundation in April and May, to help families in need in various cities and municipalities throughout the Philippines, new programs were needed, which would be targeted specifically at Jeepney drivers.
Jeepney drivers’ livelihood depends on passengers and being able to drive every day, however, due to the lockdown they had been forced to beg for money from motorists on the roads. As a result, Master Cheng Yen decided to start a Jeepney drivers relief program at the end of August which would continue every week until the end of the year.
The program was run in cooperation with local governments and the Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association (JODA) in each city. Over 30,000 drivers received rice & other essentials like cooking oil, soy sauce, sugar, salt, vinegar, soap, noodles, and other household necessities for 3 months.
Helping Those Affected Help Themselves
Following the devastation wreaked by two successive tropical cyclones, the Tzu Chi Foundation mobilized to conduct clean-up operations and provide relief to the affected regions. After coordinating with local governments, Tzu Chi members and volunteers rushed to the affected areas to provide urgently needed aid.
Trucks loaded with heavy machinery such as pay loaders, tractors, and dump trucks, rolled in for the clean-up operation. In addition, Tzu Chi volunteers also brought light tools for clean-up and sanitation operations, and provided hot food for displaced families. They also encouraged local residents to help their community through the ‘Cash for Work’ program.
Through the ‘Cash for Work’ program, Tzu Chi helps communities help themselves and encourages them to clean up their homes, and their neighbourhood. The Tzu Chi Foundation paid each person who joined the program P1,000 per day, and provided for their meals.
To help families heavily affected by the flooding, 21 countries from around the world, who had previously been helped by the Tzu Chi Foundation, donated to help the Philippines. The Tzu Chi Foundation was able to distribute between P15,000 - P28,000 per family to more than 56,000 recipients, from, Batangas, Bicol, Marikina & San Mateo.
Looking Forward to 2021
Master Cheng Yen has encouraged everyone who has the capacity to help others to not only provide material help, but also inspire spiritual wealth of love and kindness for those who are suffering during these difficult times. When Tzu Chi volunteers revisited Marikina and San Mateo before Christmas, they were able to collect more than P500,000 from the recipients, showing how the seeds of goodness and love grew in their hearts.
Many others have taken her teachings to heart, as evident from the massive support from around the world, which poured in to help Filipinos. Master Cheng Yen’s message for the New Year is “great education for the benefit the people, and doing good deeds to bring peace to the world.” As such, looking forward to the new year, we hope that Master Cheng Yen’s teachings will continue to inspire people to help others have an auspicious 2021.