On August 12, 2018, Jersey City, New Jersey and General Santos City, Philippines made their sister-city relationship official. The two cities’ mayors came together for a signing ceremony, signifying the step towards greater cultural exchange between the Philippines and New Jersey.
New Jersey is no stranger to cultural exchange with Asia. The state currently has thirteen sister city relationships with Asian cities, as well as two sister state relationships. These relationships have created numerous opportunities for educational exchange. For example, in October 2017, New Brunswick, New Jersey hosted a forty person delegation from Fukui, Japan, to celebrate 35 years as sister cities. The delegation included members of the city council, the vice mayor, and members of internationally-focused organizations in Fukui. In addition, Fukui’s junior chamber of commerce hosted a middle-school essay contest on Kusakabe Taro, a Fukui Samurai who studied in New Jersey at Rutgers; the contest’s two winners also attended the exchange.
Although New Jersey has over a dozen sister cities in Asia, until General Santos City, all were located in Northeast Asia. For this reason, the relationship with General Santos City will open new doors to cultural exchange between New Jersey and Southeast Asia. Because Jersey City has the largest Filippino population in the state, it was an ideal choice to inaugurate this relationship with the Philippines. The President of the Jersey City City Council, Filippino American Rolando Lavarro, was especially enthusiastic about the agreement, which he worked to facilitate, and sees it as an homage to the vibrant Filippino community and its contributions to Jersey City. In addition to being similar in size, both cities are also the hometowns of famous boxers; world champions Manny Pacquiao and Arturo Gatti, hail from General Santos City and New Brunswick, respectively.
The relationship between Jersey City and General Santos will help to bring awareness and understanding of a new country and region that until now has been underrepresented in New Jersey’s sister-city exchanges. This sister-city relationship has endless potential to grow and develop in the coming years.
Elizabeth Smith is a Research Intern at the East-West Center. She has recently finished her coursework at the University of Chicago, and will be studying at the Inter-University Center in Yokohama next year as a Boren Scholar. She has studied classical ballet in Paris and Kyoto.