Sister cities Olongapo-Virginia Beach unveil friendship anchor
WASHINGTON, D.C.— The cities of Olongapo and Virginia Beach, Virginia, Bolstered their people-to-people ties with a special dedication ceremony of a friendship anchor on November 30 in Kempes Landing Park in Virginia Beach.
The dedication ceremony of the Kempsville Road-Princess Anne Intersection and the Philippine and Virginia Beach Sister Anchor of Friendship was attended by Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.; Virginia Senator Frank Wagner; Virginia Beach Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr.; Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino; Ron Villanueva, Delegate of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Also in attendance were Council Lady Amelia Ross-Hammond; Naomi Estaris, COO/VP of Sister Cities Association of Virginia Beach; Roy Estaris, CEO and President of the Travel Outlet; and Elliot Gruber, President and CEO of The Mariners’ Museum and Park. The President of Sister Cities Association of Virginia Beach, Ruth Hodges Fraser, moderated the program.
Ambassador Cuisia thanked members of the Sister Cities Association of Virginia Beach and the local government officials for making the partnership possible.
“It is apt that an anchor was the symbol chosen to represent this friendship. Aside from the fact that both cities have rich maritime and naval histories, the anchor is a symbol of stability, confidence, and hope—traits that are important in any partnership,” said Cuisia.
Cuisia shared projects and partnerships that have been accomplished through the Sister Cities cooperation.
“Sister Cities International has a wide-reaching network of 145 countries and 2,121 partnerships around the world. What makes these partnerships special is the emphasis on people-to-people ties,” Cuisia said.
He reported hearing firsthand stories from students who described their experience in the exchange program with Regional Science High School, Olongapo City National High Schoo, and Tallwood High School as a “once in a lifetime” and “rewarding” experience.
Cuisia said the opportunity to travel abroad and meet their counterparts in another country is an eye-opening experience that helps forge lasting friendships and helps paint a positive picture of both countries.
“Indeed, it is at the personal level where the bilateral ties between the Philippines and the United States are renewed and reinvigorated,” said Cuisia.
He added, “The sister cities agreement has also helped strengthen economic ties, with the establishment of a Virginia Beach Economic Development Office in Olongapo City. This opens up the potential for increased trade and economic growth for both cities. The partnership has also opened up an avenue for quicker emergency assistance during natural disasters.”
Olongapo and Virginia Beach officials also expressed their appreciation to The Mariners’ Museum for providing the anchor. According to Gruber, The Mariners’ Museum has a vinta and bangka on display as part of his collection.
He also expressed interest in collaborating with the Filipino American community and the embassy in showcasing the Philippines’ maritime tradition in the near future.
Sister Cities International is a nonpartisan, nonprofit network for individual sister cities, counties, and states across the U.S. It was established in 1956 with the goal of championing peace and prosperity by fostering bonds between people from different communities around the world.
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