Philippines: Relief efforts for typhoon-damaged province of Isabela

from Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation
Published on 27 Jul 2003
MANILA, Philippines - On July 2, 2003, Isabela Province of Luzon Island in the Philippines suffered its worst typhoon in ten years. From 6 a.m. to 5:50 p.m., Imbudo, a Category Four typhoon, battered the region with winds of over 200 km/h. Although the rainfall was not heavy, the winds were strong enough to uproot trees that were decades old. Many electric poles collapsed, causing a blackout that covered the entire province. The government estimated it would take one month to restore electricity to its residents. In response to the disaster, twenty-five Tzu Chi volunteers divided into two teams and distributed materials to fourteen disaster areas, helping 2,873 households.
Precious donations

On July 25, four Tzu Chi volunteers went to Cauayan, Echaque and Ilagan in Isabela to investigate the extent of the damage. The local business association and fire prevention workers assisted Tzu Chi. Many mayors in the province are ethnic Chinese and were very willing to cooperate with Tzu Chi.

Tzu Chi volunteer Shu-Chi Huang was born in Cauayan. As soon as he heard that his hometown was severely hit by the typhoon, he dropped everything he was doing to lead other Tzu Chi volunteers to the province and organize the relief efforts.

Together with local Philippine social welfare workers, relief volunteer Wen-Huang Hsu went to the disaster areas to assess the number of victims and the type of assistance they needed. Brother Hsu believes Tzu Chi donations are difficult to come by and should therefore be prioritized to help the people who are most in need.

Eight hour ride to the distribution area

Ilagan Chinese merchants not only helped Tzu Chi to purchase rice for the distribution, they also helped to pack the rice into 3,000 packages for Tzu Chi volunteers to distribute them to the victims.

For each family, Tzu Chi volunteers distributed five kilograms of rice, eight bags of instant noodles, one pair of shoes, four articles of clothing and one tent. When the workers from the Social Welfare Agency saw what Tzu Chi had prepared for the victims, they felt Tzu Chi volunteers had taken care of all the necessities.

On July 26, Brother Chi-Tung Shih led twenty more Tzu Chi volunteers from Manila to Cauayan. Following an eight-hour bus ride, the team from Manila met up with the volunteers who had arrived the day before. The twenty-five volunteers then split into two teams to carry out the relief aide.

Life is impermanent

The first team of twelve volunteers started distributing the materials to nine disaster areas in Ilagan. The residents of Villa Imelda never received outside help before. In order to show their gratitude, they all waited until the distribution was over and for all of the Tzu Chi relief trucks to leave before they went home.

The other team of thirteen volunteers were dispatched in the mountainous regions of Echaque and Cauayan. The typhoon washed and blew away most of the crops, jeopardizing the livelihood of the local farmers. This was especially distressing as many farmers had to borrow money in order to plant the crops in the first place. The damage caused by the storm now made it even more difficult to repay the loans. The sudden loss resulting from Typhoon Imbudo is a lesson on the impermanence of life.

Although faced with limited time, Tzu Chi volunteers continued the relief efforts by leaving 127 rations of relief aide to the Isebela Business Association to continue with the distribution.

Joyful giving

On the long ride back, volunteers started to share their thoughts and feelings about the distribution. Dr. Hsien-Chih Ko from Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) started sharing that the eight-hour bus ride, the hot weather, and all the other discomforts melted away when he saw the smiles on the victims' faces. During his speech he used the word "joyful" more than fifty times to describe his experience. As a Tzu Chi volunteer, you learn to give without asking for anything in return. To free living beings from suffering is true happiness.

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