These were the words contained in the marker read by INC General Evangelist minister Bienvenido Santiago during the inauguration of the site led by the INC Executive Minister.
Bro. Eduardo also presented the ceremonial key to one of the beneficiaries of the housing unit.
He then visited the mushroom facility, the garments factory and the fish-drying plant in the area.
INC General Auditor minister Glicerio Santos Jr., said the resettlement community was the fulfillment of the promise of the Church Administration to help the victims of typhoon Yolanda.
This was aside from the immediate help extended to Yolanda survivors immedately after the typhoon-ravaged the area. There had been a series of relief distribution and medical missions in Leyte, Samar, and in other provinces hit by Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) done by the Iglesia Ni Cristo through the FYM Foundation from November to December 2013. On March 2014, the INC again conducted a massive relief distribution and medical and dental mission in Tacloban City.
“Ito’y ginagawa ng Iglesia Ni Cristo dahil ito ang utos ng Diyos na ibigin ang kapwa tao,” Santos said.
“Paano ang pag-ibig sa kapwa-tao, yung kapag mayroon siyang pangangailangan, lalo na yung mga biktima ng kalamidad at iniabot mo ang iyong kamay para tulungan siya, yun ang tunay na pag-ibig sa kapwa. Kaya walang tigil ang Iglesia Ni Cristo sa paglingap sa kapwa” he said.
On February 15, 2014, INC brethren from around the world participated in the Worldwide Walk for Yolanda victims , the main aim of which is the setting up of a resettlement community for the typhoon survivors.
A month later, on March 14, 2014, INC Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo came to the site to lead the groundbreaking ceremonies for Sitio New Era, which was aptly named to embody the hopes for a new beginning for survivors of the typhoon who want to get back on their own feet in rebuilding their lives.
After only 10 months, 500 concrete housing units with tiled floors have been constructed in the site, and the vision of an eco-farming community with a garments factory and fish drying plant have all been realized.
The garments factory has in fact been mass-producing T-shirts, bedsheet, curtains and various linen, baby clothes, and dolls in the past four months giving a much-needed income to the Yolanda survivors employed in the area. There are 200 workers employed in the garments factory.
Bernadette Versoza, one of the workers in the garments factory, said she had been training for the job since March last year, and that this has been the family’s source of income ever since. She has two sons aged 17 and 14. They are also one of the beneficiaries for the housing project in Sitio New Era.
Romeo Bautista, a supervisor at the fish drying plant, said that workers have already produced dried fish products even last year that were sold in various stores and malls. Their products included dried sapsap, danggit, galunggong, bangus,and flying fish.
Produce from the vast vegetable farm in the site have also been sold in the local markets, as well as the mushrooms produced in the mushroom facility.
And some of the products are also being targeted for export.
Villamor Quebral, who heads the eco-farming project, said there are already some Taiwanese investors who are interested in the taro production in the area.
The Yolanda survivors have also harvested 500 cavans of rice in the last harvest season, said Quebral.
Hopefully in the next cropping season they would produce more rice, as the previous harvest had been affected by typhoon Ruby, he said.
Sitio New Era is situated in a 3,000- hectare land owned by the INC in Alangalang, Leyte. The initial phase of the project involved the development of some 700 hectares of the property
Dr. Sergie Santos of the FYM Foundation said the EVM Self-Sustainable Resettlement Community represented the result of the church members’ efforts worldwide to help the Yolanda survivors.
The INC brethren who helped build the site was motivated by faith in God and the love for their fellowmen. That everything happened fast and there were 500 concrete housing units built in 10 months’ time, aside from the livelihood projects already in place, was nothing short of a miracle.
Everything happened because of God’s grace, Santos said.
The self-sustainable community, in a sitio called “New Era” represented a new beginning for a people whose faith has been tested, and whose village –barangay Langit—is literally a piece of “heaven” on earth.