Union City, Calif. fetes 7 sisters, including Pasay and Baybay
UNION CITY, California – The spirit of friendship among nations filled the Mark Green Sports Center here on August 30 as local communities, representing this city’s seven Sister Cities in six countries, exchanged food and showcased traditions and cultures.
Union City’s 11th Sister Cities 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.
Currently made up of Pasay and Baybay, Leyte in the Philippines; Sta. Rosalia Mexico; Chiang Rai, Thailand; Jalandhar, India; Liyang, China; and Asadabad, Afghanistan, the sister cities of Union City have grown in number 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.
“This annual city event was created to promote understanding of each other’s cultures since Union City is one of the most diverse cities not just in the Bay Area but probably in the whole U.S.,” explained Union City Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci.
“This event is very important because we all live in such a busy world these days, and a lot of people do not even know their neighbors who may not look like them. So this event makes it more important to learn about someone else’s culture,” she added.
UCFSC President and City Council Member Pat Gacoscos echoed Mayor Vernaci, adding that the festival is a way of celebrating similarities and differences amidst the conflicts in many parts of the world like Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Korea, and even within the United States.
“Locally, in simple ways we celebrate peace through friendships, so we can change the world by the way we treat our neighbors and the people around us,” Gacoscos explained. “We want peace and friendship. Peace starts with each one of us.”
In his speech, special guest Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Henry Bensurto Jr. disclosed that like Union City’s aim in holding the sister city festival, the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries have been intensifying efforts to ensure that there will be a lot of people-to-people engagements and cultural exchanges.
“What you are trying to accomplish here in terms of understanding is very much a mirror image of what is happening out there in diplomacy,” Bensurto explained. “The real ambassadors of peace are not the government officials, but the very people who are on a day-to-day engagement with people of different cultures. Friendship is only possible when there is a recognition and mutual respect between parties.”
Mayor Vernaci observed, “If friendship develops, then you trust other people. And not only does that foster peace, it also helps foster business relationships.” She added,“Take the time to meet somebody who might be different from you because you might be amazed how it may expand your view of the world.”
She was personally invited to visit Baybay City by Mayor Carmen Cari herself, who was also one of the main guests.
Baybay, the newest sister of Union City, was the beneficiary of $15,000 donation from Union City residents after being hit by Typhoon Yolanda, thanks to Baybay’s sister city status.
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