Two Great Love Villages in Kananga and Ormoc grow with the addition of 110 new families moving into their new prefab homes. Five years after Typhoon Yolanda, the villages continue to accept families whose lives were changed by natural disasters.
Over a hundred families in Kananga and Ormoc City move into their new prefab homes to start anew with loving communities.
In two separate turnover ceremonies on October 29, Kananga Great Love Village and Ormoc Tzu Chi Great Love City welcomed 56 and 55 new families respectively. Aside from new prefab homes, the families also received housewarming gifts such as 20 kilos of rice from Taiwan and grocery items.
Tzu Chi’s housing projects came to fruition as a result of a slew of devastating disasters that hit Leyte. Three Great Love Villages were built in the town of Kananga for families gravely affected by the magnitude-6.5 earthquake in 2017.
However, the family of Paquito Repaja was more affected by Yolanda than the earthquake. His straw hut never stood a chance against winds of up to 300 km/h. Following the typhoon, the hut was repaired. But he and his family would feel much safer behind walls of prefab boards.
“We don’t have any words other than ‘Thank you’ for Tzu Chi. We are indebted to the organization,” said Repaja, who lives in Kananga with his wife and two grandchildren.
In February 2018, the first two villages were built in Barangays Hiloctogan and Rizal for 50 and 61 families respectively. Three months later, construction began on the third village in Barangay Santo Niño. Of the 120 units prepared, 56 were cleared for occupancy.
A short program was held in the turnover ceremony in Kananga, honoring Tzu Chi for remaining in Leyte five years after Yolanda. Among those in attendance were representatives of the local government under Mayor Rowena Codilla. She, along with her family, has seen Leytenos grow under the guidance of Great Love since Yolanda.
“Sometimes, we feel guilty because [Tzu Chi] is the one who gives and even says thanks,” said Codilla.
Local priest Alejandro Abelido, Jr. presided over a short mass, as well as the blessing of the new homes that followed. In a predominantly-Catholic community, Abelido sees the help of a Buddhist organization like Tzu Chi nothing short of a miracle.
“When it comes to love, sharing, and goodness, religion doesn’t matter. It’s an innate nature of every person to do good to others, whether you’re a Catholic or Buddhist. All of us, humanity in general, are called to be kind and do good to others,” he said.
Before proceeding to the Great Love City for its turnover ceremony, a luncheon was held at a restaurant in downtown Ormoc. As the mixed delegation of local and foreign Tzu Chi volunteers enjoyed a vegetarian lunch, volunteers and youth from the village treated them to several short numbers. Taiwanese volunteer Chuang Shu Chin could hardly believe that these were the same people who were barely clinging onto hope five years ago.
“Way back in 2013, I saw the chaos. The people had no sense of direction, let alone hope. But after five years, returning here, I could see now that there’s hope and the people have a direction in life,” said Chuang.
The larger Great Love City in Barangay Liloan, Ormoc City was built for the Yolanda survivors. With the 55 new families settling in, the 50-hectare community now houses 1,640 families. It’s the largest of Tzu Chi’s housing projects in Leyte, which includes a multipurpose building at the outskirts for social service needs.
Upon arriving at the village, Chuang got the opportunity to see the locals up close. Visiting the new home of Jenny Sania, the volunteer saw signs of the family already settling in. Linoleum wallpapers with a brick-and-mortar motif add a classic flair to their humble abode. The linoleum floor, made to resemble wood, gives warmth in chilly nights.
More importantly, Sania herself couldn’t help but cry tears of joy. She finally had a home she could rightfully call her own.
“Thank you so much for being here for us. And thank you for helping us. Thank you so much. We’re happy to have our own home,” Sania told Chuang.