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Filipino Church Buys South Dakota Town

Posted: May 17, 2012

The non-Catholic Iglesia ni Cristo church in the Philippines purchased an abandoned, tiny exclave in Scenic, South Dakota for $700,000. But the church hasn’t divulged its plans for the property, according to its representatives in Daly City, Calif.

Scenic, SD, an unincorporated 12-acre town in Pennington County, was once a popular stop for people traveling to Rapid City from the Badlands. The INC bought it from its previous owner, longtime resident and area rodeo legend, Twila Merrill.

INC has been steadily spreading everywhere since its founding in the Philippines in 1914 by Felix M. Manalo, its Supremo, who died in 1963. INC rejects the doctrine of the trinity and believes Christ was one of several prophets. It is focused on the end times, believes Manalo is a prophet and considers the Catholic Church apostate.

It is a large, tightly knit indigenous Christian religious group that counts millions of members nationwide. According to the National Statistics Office in Manila, 2.3% of the entire Philippine population of 93 million is an INC affiliate. Its current executive minister is Erano G. Manalo, the eldest son of Felix.

Scenic, SD is the latest in a long line of towns for sale. Recently a Vietnamese investor bought the tiny town of Buford, WY (pop. 1) for $900K. Buford is considered the smallest town in America, with a lone population who mans the post office, and has its own ZIP code: 82052. Another town, Henry River, a 72-acre property in North Carolina is being sold for $1.4 million. The abandoned mill town served as the set for District 12 in the movie Hunger Games.

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