Barangay New Era: The Iglesia enclave
MANILA, Philippines – Unlike Catholics, it’s a Christian community that does not believe in the divinity of saints. Yet the streets in Milton Hills Subdivision, Barangay New Era, are named after saints.
About 95% of residents in this community, just behind the compound of the Central temple of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, are members of the INC.
“The original developers of Milton Hills Subdivision are Catholics,” said Cesar Villa, an INC head deacon, who has been living at St Joseph Street, since 1984.
It was in 1984 when the INC Central Temple was inaugurated. It was also during this year that the New Era University was opened.
“When we moved here 30 years ago, there were no services being offered by utility companies, except for electricity. There was no water and no telephone lines,” Villa recalled.
Barangay New Era was originally part of Barangay Culiat. But Presidential Decree No. 1760, signed by the late Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos in January 2, 1981, made Barangay New Era into a distinct and independent barangay.
“There are probably 4,000 families living here now,” Villa said.
According to Villa, the church administration of the INC built housing units for the ministers and constructed 4 dormitories for the students of New Era University.
As the INC community in Barangay New Era grew in number over the years, so did the Muslim community in neighboring Barangay Culiat, as informal settlers displaced by demolitions in Manila ended up there.
“I would say we have a cordial relationship with our Muslim neighbors. At least 3 times a year, we conduct outreach programs, such as medical and dental missions, and distributing of hunger relief packs,” added Villa, who also said they have been doing the outreach program for over 10 years now.
The seemingly harmonious co-existence between the INC and the Muslim community is perhaps mirrored by what is ostensibly a peaceful Barangay New Era. Residents adhere to rules strictly imposed by the barangay, which reportedly conducts round-the-clock security.
There is a curfew for minors from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am, a smoking ban in almost all public places, and a firecracker ban during the New Year revelry.
Violators of the curfew are reportedly reprimanded at the barangay hall, then escorted home. Their parents are also advised about their children’s predicament. If the minor is staying at one of the dorms, then the owner of the boarding house is advised. If he or she is a student of New Era, the university administration is informed about the violation.
“Clean and peaceful,” that is how Villa sums up Barangay New Era.