Jersey City and General Santos to promote commerce, culture as sister cities

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Darlene Dilangalen Borromeo meets with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Council President Rolando Lavarro. Cross visits by local officials and cultural exhibits are envisioned.

Darlene Dilangalen Borromeo meets with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Council President Rolando Lavarro. Cross visits by local officials and cultural exhibits are envisioned.

By Cristina DC Pastor

What do Jersey City in the U.S. and General Santos City in the Philippines have in common? Aside from both being highly urbanized cities, not much.

In our search for some kind of a connection, we find out that J.C. is the birthplace of basketball great Shaquille O’Neal, and GenSan is the hometown of boxing legend Manny Pacquiao. Both cities are bordered by historic rivers – the cold, placid Hudson for J.C. and the dazzling Pangi River in GenSan. GenSan is known for its white sand beaches and J.C. for its brownstone houses. The last one is a stretch but that’s only to show that one does not need similarities to come together as “twin cities.” Synergy can happen in various ways.

On August 14, Jersey City in New Jersey and General Santos City in South Cotabato province will sign a sisterhood agreement where both will pledge to “deepen their continuing relations” in the field of education, culture, heritage and the arts, tourism, agriculture, information technology and economy. Both are committed to “promote national peace and security.”

The Memorandum of Agreement will be signed by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera in a ceremony to be held at the City Hall of Jersey City. With the signing of the agreement, GenSan becomes the 13th sister city to Jersey City, along with Jerusalem in Israel and Kolkata in India, the second Philippine city after Ozamiz.

Jersey City skyscrapers

Jersey City skyscrapers

“Gensan is the tuna capital of the Philippines,” stated Gensan native Darlene Dilangalen Borromeo in an interview with The FilAm. She is one of the advisers behind the program. “Gensan has a booming tuna industry which has tremendous export potential. We have a wharf and we’re near the water.”

Darlene has wonderful memories growing up in a city she remembers as “quiet, serene and clean.”

“I grew up in Lagao barrio, which was a residential area, a place where you raise your children,” said Darlene, a psychiatric nurse at Clara Maas Medical Center in Belleville, New Jersey. She was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother. “We always played outside as children. I had a wonderful childhood there.” She studied in Gensan public schools until she reached high school, and came to Manila for her college education.

Fashion and tourism are other areas of cooperation, she said. With the trunk show Arise Mindanao, creations by Mindanao designers will be unveiled before the public.

“We want to raise awareness about what Gensan culture is about and what it has to offer in terms of fashion and other trends. Crafts created by indigenous tribes will be on display,” she said. “That was the intent.”

Darlene laid the groundwork and met with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Council President Rolando Lavarro, and officials of the Jersey City Economic Development Division led by Jose Arango and Jaime Santana Paez. The two cities are expected to host cross visits by their local officials, teachers organizations, athletes, computer technology professionals, among other sectors. There will be cultural exhibitions in both regions.

“We are hoping that through the sister city program, we can help build the communities of indigenous tribes so the weavers can continue their traditions. If there is no market, how are they going to survive,” she said.

© The FilAm 2018

A fish port in General Santos City

A fish port in General Santos City

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