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Operation Blessing Builds 'Community of Hope' with 100 Homes for Storm Survivors in Tacloban City

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Tacloban City in the Philippines was ground zero for one of the most destructive storms ever recorded. Thousands were killed and the city was almost destroyed. 

Although it's been almost 10 years, Alfred Romualdez remembers it like it was yesterday. "Everything is very, very clear in my mind, you know, what happened that day," Romualdez said.

On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the world's strongest storms, slammed into the eastern Philippines.

Romualdez and staff members were taking shelter at a beach-front location in Tacloban City when a massive storm surge hit their building. The men were forced to punch a hole in the ceiling to escape rising water.

"Honestly I was just waiting, and my men, we were just waiting, like 'when are we going to die'," Romualdez remembers.

Back then, Romualdez served as Tacloban's mayor. He and the others miraculously escaped any serious injuries but others weren't as fortunate. 

In total, 6,300 people died while at ground zero. Tacloban lost more than 2,300 people with the storm destroying 90% of the city.

"Why didn't I die like the others?" Romualdez wondered during an interview with CBN News from his office in Tacloban. "Why was I chosen? Why am I still alive? That's why you have to turn to faith, you have to turn to God."

Ten years later and now in his third term as mayor, Romualdez sees his decision to launch Tacloban's "Build Back Better" campaign, bringing together residents, government agencies, donors, and humanitarian organizations, as key to rebuilding his destroyed city. 

He believes it's why God spared his life. 

Today, visitors to Tacloban's newly renovated City Hall are welcomed with Psalm 100 verse 5 inscribed on the front entrance.

"I mean why would you teach a person if you saw the person is doomed? You teach a person because you feel you are going to be alive; you are going to help the next generation, it's going to prepare you in life, make you stronger, move forward and give you hope, and that's what happened here," Romualdez told CBN News.

CBN's Operation Blessing played an instrumental role in helping rebuild Tacloban and so many other areas. 

The storm affected upwards of 16 million people and destroyed more than a million homes. 

In 2014, Operation Blessing bought a piece of land about 10 miles north of Tacloban City. 

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The vision was to develop this land and build free homes for families who had lost everything during Typhoon Haiyan. Nine years later, Operation Blessing has built 100 homes for 100 families. 

Their goal is to build 324 homes in total.

Eraya Kristen Jean and her mom were among the first to move to Operation Blessing's Community of Hope Village. 
Their home used to sit close to the shore but was destroyed in the storm surge. 

They'd been praying for months for a place when Operation Blessing heard about their plight. 
"This is our safe haven now, yes this is a dream come true for us," Jean told CBN News while she tended to her small garden.

Aljay Basilan also got a new home, and with seed money from Operation Blessing's livelihood projects was able to start a small business. 
"We used to live in a squatter area but when Operation Blessing offered us a new place, it came with opportunities that I could never have imagined," Basilan said.

"People who had lost jobs before are now being employed by the establishments and they start generating resources or income from this employment," said Gigilyn Endaya with Operation Blessing Philippines.

Construction on the Community of Hope Village started in 2015 with the goal of building safe, secure, and permanent housing for families displaced by the storm.

Using special bamboo cement technology, Operation Blessing constructed each home to be capable of withstanding a magnitude-8 earthquake and winds more than 150 miles per hour.

"Each household is granted with solar-power, single detached 60 square meter house, with two rooms, two bedrooms, one kitchen, one living room, and a toilet," said Endaya.

Operation Blessing also built a community center that serves as a gathering point for various children's activities, food distribution, and educational programs. And on Sunday houses a church service for residents.

John Peter Falguera felt led by God to move here and serve as its pastor. 
"When I started in 2016, we were in the pioneering stages of the ministry here," said Pastor Falguera.

Since then, he has held nightly prayer meetings and Bible study with residents.

"We go house to house for evangelistic ministry and hold events for the young people where we introduce the Word of God to them," Falguera told CBN News.

As a result, all 100 families have heard the Gospel message.

"We can see that there is improvement in terms of values, in terms of lifestyle even in terms of peace and order in this community," said Endaya.

When he's not behind the pulpit, Falguera is providing pastoral care during Operation Blessing's medical outreaches.

Using state-of-the-art mobile clinics, teams of medical volunteers provide families in the community with routine free medical, dental, and optical services. 
"Part of the future plan of Operation Blessing here in the Community of Hope is to make them self-sustainable, self-reliant communities and families," noted Endaya. 
A decade later, Typhoon Haiyan is a painful memory that still lingers here for survivors. Yet, to see a city such as Tacloban and many others completely rebuilt with continued support from groups like Operation Blessing gives survivors hope that they are stronger and better prepared today to face another potential storm.  

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About The Author

George Thomas Headshot

Born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and of Indian descent, CBN News’ Senior International Correspondent and Co-Anchor, George Thomas, has been traveling the globe for more than 20 years, finding the stories of people, conflicts, and issues that must be told. He has reported from more than 100 countries and has had a front-row seat to numerous global events of our day. George’s stories of faith, struggle, and hope combine the expertise of a seasoned journalist with the inspiration of a deep calling to tell the stories of the people behind the news. “I’ve always liked discovering & exploring new