February 7, 2023
Tzu Chi celebrates New Year Blessing at BTCC
By Joy Rojas
The Jing Si Hall of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Campus (BTCC) in Sta. Mesa, Manila, was packed with commissioners, distinguished guests, volunteers, beneficiaries, families, and more as Tzu Chi Foundation welcomed 2023 with a whole-day New Year Blessing on February 5. The morning blessing was conducted in English and Filipino, while the afternoon blessing was presented in Chinese.
Both aired videos of Tzu Chi volunteers’ quick responses to challenges that beset them in the previous year. Compassion and relief were palpable as the people behind Tzu Chi global chapters in Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Madagascar, Poland, Nepal, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, USA, Singapore, and Indonesia acted swiftly to aid and comfort victims of war, famine, climate change, economic crisis, the pandemic, and natural and man-made disasters. Filipino volunteers also moved fast to provide food, water, cash assistance, and other forms of help to nearly 60,000 Filipino families affected by the seven typhoons, one earthquake, and nine fires that took place in 2022.
But 2022 was a year of hope and promise too. Thanks to their unceasing efforts and commitment to the teachings of Dharma Master Cheng Yen, Tzu Chi’s Filipino volunteers traveled over 11,000 kilometers across the archipelago—from Abra to Zamboanga and everywhere in between—not just to extend assistance to those in need, “but to open paths and make way for the other missions of Tzu Chi,” says Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Henry Yuňez in his speech.
Twenty-seven preschoolers and 19 nursery-aged kids became the first batch of students of Tzu Chi Great Love Preschool Philippines, the latest milestone of Tzu Chi’s mission of education. The gift of learning was also given to 1,384 poor but deserving students as Tzu Chi expanded its scholarship program outside the National Capital Region. Volunteers earned through the eco-friendly upcycling initiative of weaving excess sport sock materials into durable seat covers and mats, and Davao’s Ata Manobo tribe can expect a sustainable livelihood once its banana plantation project with Tzu Chi bears fruit.
“Our main commitment has always been based on the aspirations of Dharma Master Cheng Yen—to cultivate the field of blessings and gain joy and wisdom,” says the Tzu Chi Philippines CEO.
It’s a commitment shared by many beneficiaries. Jeepney drivers from MAPAPJODA (Marikina Pasig Pateros Jeepney Operators Drivers Association) Inc., the heads of the blind massage therapy group VIBES (Visually Impaired Brothers for Excellent Service), and Virgilio Rom, whose life-saving angioplasty in 2021 was taken care of by Tzu Chi, turned over their personal pledges in coin banks as a way of paying it forward.
“We were once helped, and now we can help those who are in need. It’s give-and-take,” says MAPAPJODA Secretary Jimmy Catabay, whose group received sacks of rice and grocery items during COVID-19’s pre-vaccine days when public transportation was halted. “What Tzu Chi gave us is a big blessing, why can’t we reciprocate?”
While Jimmy and his fellow drivers sought other ways to make a living in the pandemic, the visually impaired community was left with very limited options. Months of rice relief from Tzu Chi kept blind massage therapists and their families from going hungry, and when lockdowns were finally lifted, the group did not forget the generosity extended to them by the men and women in blue and white. “We put Tzu Chi coin cans in all our clinics,” says VIBES Deputy Director Criselda Valderrama. “It’s not just for clients who want to donate. We remind our visually impaired therapists, ‘If you made a lot or get extra tips, don’t forget Tzu Chi who helped you when you were struggling.’”
Guests were moved by Tzu Chi’s consistent acts of kindness and their ripple effect on people and communities. “It was very impressive to see what the Foundation does worldwide. The culture of kindness and compassion doesn’t favor any race or nationality,” says veteran ABS-CBN broadcast journalist and multi-platform producer Jing Castaňeda, who first encountered the Tzu Chi Foundation during her coverage of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. “Everybody receives help, and the help given is from people who once needed help themselves. The thought of it gives me goosebumps.”
Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) founder Teresita Ang See and MRPO chair Architect Ka Kuen Chua were also touched by the coming together of people who, despite their different beliefs, are united in their desire for peace, abundance, and good health for all. “I hope the Tzu Chi volunteers, officers, and all the donors and benefactors be blessed with peace health, and well-being so they can continue to help others,” she says. “More power to Tzu Chi,” he adds.
Michael Peiyung Hsu, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines, had nothing but well-wishes to Tzu Chi in the Year of the Rabbit. “In beginning of the Chinese New Year I’m wishing all the Tzu Chi volunteers a happy and prosperous new year. We know that Tzu Chi is very much into charity, education, humanities, and is very much hands on with regards to calamity response. We hope that Tzu Chi will be able accomplish all their tasks. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year. Thank you all.”
Each guest received an angpao, a traditional token from Dharma Master Cheng Yen featuring a commemorative Tzu Chi coin and three grains of rice symbolizing discipline, determination, and wisdom. They also got to take home scrolls and art work featuring Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s aphorisms beautifully handwritten in Chinese and English calligraphy.