On its 10th Anniversary
By Mike Baños
The first Norfolk Sister City Association Cagayan de Oro Committee Student Summer Exchange program is now underway in Norfolk, Virginia.
Sponsored by the Cagayan de Oro Committee of the Norfolk Sister City Association (NSCA), the intensive two week program aims to bring the youth from both cities closer together in a brief yet rich summer program that promotes cultural awareness, intercultural understanding and explore the history and heritage of the City of Norfolk, especially its ties with Cagayan de Oro through history during the Second World War.
The delegates who were selected after an intensive screening process are Elkanah Ricardo, Grade 12, from Oro Christian Grade School; Shaddrach John Lloyd Daba, Grade 12, and Marlelle Paguidopon, Grade 12, both from Lourdes College High School, Lance Nathaniel Elot, Grade 11, and Earl Joy Lopina, Grade 12, both from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan Senior High School and Reine Julia Madriaga, Accountancy-1, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan University. The group is being chaperoned by Eileen San Juan, Local Economic & Investment Promotion Officer (LEIPO) of Cagayan de Oro LGU.
The high school students will stay with “host siblings” to allow them to experience family life in another country’s setting, hone their interpersonal skills and cultivate life-long friendships.
“Norfolk Sister City Association is a great organization, remarked Cheryl Penat McGariggle, chairperson of the Cagayan de Oro Committee of NSCA. “It has many programs that allow sister cities to deepen relationships through educational and cultural exchange. I'm honored and privileged to Chair Cagayan de Oro Committee.”
Among the items in their itinerary are visits to the Nauticus, a maritime-themed science center museum; Chrysler Art Museum; a shipboard tour of the WWII era battleship USS Wisconsin, the beautiful Botanical Garden, the General MacArthur Memorial Museum, Virginia Zoo, Victory Rover cruise on the Elizabeth River touring one of the world's busiest sea port and Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base which supports naval forces of the US Fleet Forces Command, operating in the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, among others. The program ends with a visit to The Mermaid Factory, where the students will paint their own versions of Norfolk’s iconic Mermaid.
The delegates had a meet and greet at City Hall with City Councilwoman, Andria McClellan and City Historian, Peggy Haile-McPhillips. Last July 5 they toured the US capital city of Washington D.C. and met with Darell Ann R. Artates, Third Secretary and Vice Consul (Public Diplomacy) at the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines. Ambassador Babes Romualdez is on official travel overseas. The students enjoyed sightseeing the capital following their meeting.
“It is amazing to see how people from same hometown come together working towards the same goal,” McGarrigle noted. “The Washington D.C. tour was hosted warmly by Kagay-anons Litong and Rachel Roa, who drove the students and their chaperons around historic landmarks and sponsored dinner.”
The highlight of the exchange program is the participation to Norfolk Sister City Association's Young Global Citizens,
“YGC is an educational program inspired by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization [UNESCO} and was developed in keeping with the organization's mission through a partnership with Norfolk Public Schools and Summer Enrichment Program by exchange students sharing their culture and global views,” said Jennifer Priest, NSCA Executive Director. “YGC is presented at the Academy of International Studies at Rosemont in Norfolk, a half-day event, with interactions between Norfolk students and the visitors.”
The program is being conducted under the auspices of the Cagayan de Oro-Norfolk Sister City Sisterhood Agreement.
Cagayan de Oro became the 7th sister city of Norfolk in 2008 with the official signing of the sisterhood agreement by then Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim and then Cagayan de Oro Mayor Constantino Jaraula at the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Square.
Former President Fidel V. Ramos recommended Cagayan de Oro be Norfolk’s sister city in the Philippines through the historical ties between both cities when General Douglas MacArthur successfully broke through the Imperial Japanese Navy blockade of Corregidor Island and landed in Cagayan on March 13, 1942 before flying to Australia on March 17 in two B-17s where he uttered the most famous words to come out of World War II upon his arrival: “I Shall Return.” MacArthur and his wife Jeanne are both interred at the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, which is also the birthplace of his mother, Mary Pinkney Hardy MacArthur.
Like Norfolk and its ten sister cities, Cagayan de Oro is also a port city and through the initiative of Jaraula and Engr. Elpidio M. Paras inaugurated in 2008 the MacArthur Memorial at Barangay Macabalan modeled after his Philippine Field Marshall’s cap and where the Golden Lady iteration of Norfolk’s iconic mermaid is also found, a gift from the City of Norfolk.
The 1st Student Summer Exchange Program is the latest in a series of exchange visits which included the 1st Adult Exchange Program from Cagayan de Oro to Norfolk on May, 2016 and the 1st Adult Exchange Visit to Cagayan de Oro from Norfolk highlighted by the week-long 75th Diamond Jubilee of MacArthur’s Breakout from Corregidor to Australia via Cagayan, Misamis and Diklum, Manolo Fortich on Feb. 13-17, 2017.
“The success of the program is due in large part to the hard work of Cagayan de Oro Committee members,” McGarrigle said. “Both Adult and Student Exchange programs are the first major projects of the CDO Committee. The 75th anniversary MacArthur reenactment celebration in 2017 was the highlight of the first Norfolk Adult Exchange Visit. This is just the beginning. With the support of both sister cities chief executives, the Committee plans to carry steady inbound/outbound exchange with the MacArthur Museum Project in Macabalan as the ultimate goal. Our committee’s mission remains to align with NSCA's mission statement to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.”
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