Americas Community

 Union City fetes its 9 sister cities at 18th annual Sister Cities Festival

By Jun Nucum
UNION CITY – The spirit of friendship among nations filled the Mark Green Sports Center here on August 20 as local communities, representing this city’s nine Sister Cities in eight countries, exchanged food and showcased traditions and cultures in what was billed as Union City’s 11th Sister Cities Festival.
The festival featured cultural presentations mostly in the form of songs and dances, and numerous booths that showed the various cities’ produce, arts and crafts, images of the famous tourist spots and cuisines of home countries.
Union City’s sister cities which joined the festival were Pasay City in Metro Manila and Baybay City, Leyte in the Philippines; Sta. Rosalia in Mexico; Chiang Rai, Thailand; Jalandhar, India; Liyang, China; Asadabad, Afghanistan; Mushin Lagos, Nigeria and newest member Khushab in Pakistan.
The sister cities of Union City have grown thanks mainly to the efforts of a group of leaders, friends and volunteers called Union City Friends of Sister Cities (UCFSC) representing the city’s diverse populations.
The city of Guro in South Korea, meanwhile, is Union City’s friendship city.

“This is one of my favorite events of the year as it honors and celebrates the people of our gloriously diverse community. It helps us to appreciate that we have that we have much in common with our neighbors around the world,” said Union City Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci.

“Today, we proudly announce the development of our newest Sister City relationship with Khushab, Pakistan. This is our first relationship in Pakistan but many of our residents hail from that country,” she added.

UCFSC President and former City Council Member Pat Gacoscos said the last celebration was one of the most successful festivals  because there were so many guests both local and international.

“I could feel the friendship among the people who attended serving our purpose of educating and entertaining them. Educating means learning our similarities and differences, especially with the current racial tension; hatred against Asians and other people of color.  Entertaining is for them to experience the cultures of others through dances and music and stories of our speakers and tasting the variety of food we serve,” Gacoscos said.

In his speech, special guest Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Neil Frank Ferrer talked on the celebration of Union City with two Philippines cities, Pasay City and Baybay City, the capital of Leyte.

“Pasay is the de facto “gateway to the Philippines,” playing host to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It is also a premier cultural, commercial, and tourism hub where the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine International Convention Center, the World Trade Center, the SM Mall of Asia Complex, and the Newport World Resorts (formerly known as Resorts World Manila) are located,” Ferrer said.
“Meanwhile, Baybay in Leyte Province is the home of Visayas State University, one of the Philippines’ leading schools in agricultural research and itself a traveler’s paradise, nestled between the biodiverse Mount Pangasugan and Camotes Sea,” Ferrer said.
Pasay City was represented in the event by Mayor Imelda Emi Calixto-Rubiano who was accompanied by First Gentleman, Vice Mayor Waldetrudes S. Del Rosario, city councilors and department heads.

“We can share best practices that we have and we can do them in our country also. We can learn from their traditions, culture. This is really an important event for us since we are sister cities for a long time now and this is our first time to visit this festival here in Union City,” Calixto said as she cited the importance of Pasay City being sister cities with Union City.

On the other hand, Baybay City Councilor Rommel Peñaranda came along with other city councilors Filemon Avila and Ramon Veloso.

 “Actually, this is my third time. We have been sister cities with Union City for ten years now. We started this in 2013 and I was the first one to come here,” Peñaranda shared. “It started as a proposal from our end, in Baybay City Chamber of Commerce coordinated with some Filipinos here and we came up with an idea to have a twinning sister city and our local government approved the idea.”

Peñaranda also acknowledged that they got a lot of help from Union City especially from Filipinos here particularly at the time we were hit by storm Yolanda in 2014 as Filipino Americans provided assistance that helped a lot.