"THE paper you received is not just any letter. It is a symbol that you will have your own land. This is yours."

This was the message of Mayor Evelio Leonardia, who led the distribution of certificates of lot awards, to 51 Bacolodnons at the Progreso Village in Barangay Vista Alegre over the weekend.

The activity was also attended by Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran, Councilors Renecito Novero, Carlos Jose Lopez, Archie Baribar, Israel Salanga, and Dindo Ramos.

Also present were Barangay Vista Alegre Captain Jose Ma. Leandro Norberto de Leon, Barangay 14 Captain Karl John Magno, Barangay 18 Captain Madeline Diaz, and Grupo Progreso members Jonathan Diaz, Ed Guillem, and Bacolod Housing Authority (BHA) head Ma. Victoria Parreñas.

Leonardia, in a statement, said the new lot owners should protect the property given them.

"Do not give this away," he said.

Progreso Village is an 89-hectare relocation site acquired by the Bacolod City government.

The beneficiaries of the lot are informal settlers of the city and each recipient-family received a 64-square meter lot.

Leonardia said that when his administration started the relocation site, he and other city officials even faced administrative cases despite their initiative to help the less fortunate.

"But they persisted and eventually all the cases related to the project were dismissed. We did our best so that the Progreso Village will materialize because many city dwellers do not have residential lots of their own. Now, you have a lot to transfer to. I dream that what we have here will be as good as any other subdivision," he said.

He added that as a major step to further develop the Progreso Village beginning 2019, the city has allocated P350 million for the development of roads, bridges, streetlights, drainage system, and other facilities.

The Progreso Village was one of the four flagship projects of the Leonardia administration two years ago.

The village was designed for about 6,500 households. It has basic facilities that include primary and secondary schools.

"What is important is that we can improve this place. Other people who were offered this did not hesitate to transfer, because they know they will have a better situation in this place. We want you to see the convenience of this place since it now belongs to you. We do this all for you that's why we even have an elementary school, a secondary school, and in the near future an extension campus of the Bacolod City College," Leonardia said.

In 2019, Leonardia led the ground-breaking ceremony for a three-storey classroom building for the Progreso Village National High School, which stands on a lot next to Vista Alegre-Granada Relocation Elementary School.

Parreñas said the Bacolod City's Progreso Village is one of the biggest relocation sites in the country today.

She said it was established by the Leonardia administration in 1996 to give informal settlers a home to call their own.

"It will also give them a sense of dignity," she added.

Familiaran also told the beneficiaries that they are lucky because had they opted to move to a low- cost subdivision, they will have narrower roads unlike at the Progreso Village, where the thoroughfares are wider.

If not just because of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), he said, they would have already used the funds for building the extension of the Bacolod City College here.

Novero, chairman of the City Council committee on urban poor housing and resettlement, said that "rain or shine, your Bacolod officials are here for you."

"Let's continue and extend the good leadership of Mayor Bing Leonardia. Our program will not be possible without the support of the Sangguniang Panlungsod led by Vice Mayor Familiaran, the city officials, BHA, and members of Grupo Progreso," he said.

Jimmy Mationg, 56, a Progreso Village beneficiary, also expressed his gratitude to Leonardia and other city executives for making his family's dream a reality.

"We can now sleep well, and settle down with our lives comfortably as the lot is now ours," Mationg said.