LATHROP – Two grand celebrations over the weekend marked the 80th anniversary of the founding of United Bacarreneos of America.
UBA is the organization that was instrumental in establishing the Sister City cultural relationship between Lathrop and Bacarra, a town located near the northwest tip of the island of Luzon in the Philippines.
The first was a formal dinner-dance held Saturday evening at the Clarion Inn & Suites in Stockton. The gala event, which doubled as a fund-raiser for the group’s various projects including scholarship awards, was attended by Lathrop Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ashok K. Ralmilay. The special guest for the evening was Mayor Nicomedes C. De La Cruz, Jr. of Bacarra who was the featured speaker.
Celebrating the event were Bacarreneos from Lathrop and Manteca as well as others from various cities in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, plus a few who came all the way from Chicago, Seattle, Hawaii as well as San Diego and Los Angeles.
The anniversary celebration continued on Sunday with a picnic at Valverde Park in Lathrop where the apropos attire was light-colored summer clothes and matching wide-brimmed hats for protection from the valley’s near-century summer temperatures. One of the highlights of the open-air gastronomical feast featuring Filipino delicacies was the official meeting of the municipal heads of the sister cities – Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos of Lathrop who came in his trademark shorts and sandals get-up, and Mayor De La Cruz, Jr. of Bacarra.
Councilman Dhaliwal was also an invited guest and came to the picnic with his two young sons who both attend Widmer Elementary School.
In a generous gesture, Mayor Santos, who is a businessman as well as an entrepreneur, donated some of the food and several cases of bottled water to the luncheon event.
Saturday evening, the Bacarreneos had a surprise waiting for the Bacarra mayor. He was asked to sit on a chair placed in the middle of the dance floor, after which the crowd broke into the traditional Ilocano birthday song, a musical piece that is sung while the celebrant is presented with a floral wreath and a bouquet of flowers. The song concluded with a rousing rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song. The mayor’s birthday happened to fall on Saturday.
Part of De La Cruz’s message that evening was a brief report on some of the latest infrastructure projects that have been taking place in Bacarra including the opening of a senior center, sewer service improvements, municipal streets and highway improvements, completion of the town’s performing theater, plus preliminary steps being done to convert the 17th-century convent next to the church into a museum to boost tourism, and the landscaping of the area around the “Domeless Tower of Asia” next to the church.
The Bacarreneos of America has made financial contributions not only to scholarships and other pet projects in America but also to the opening of several preschool classrooms in Bacarra.
Among those who sent messages to the organization in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of its founding were California Governor Jerry Brown, Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston, and Philippine Consul General Marciano A. Paynor, Jr. of the consulate office in San Francisco.
“California is the place it is today thanks to our rich diversity of cultures and customs. As you come together to enjoy the festivities and promote the success of the Bacarreneos, I express my gratitude to you for your hard work community involvement and the many other ways you strengthen our Golden State,” stated Governor Brown in his message.
Mayor Johnston praised the Bacarreneos for their fortitude and many accomplishments. “We commend you as a group of Filipinos united in your organization to help each other morally, financially, and spiritually in time of need and sorrow. It is admirable that you provide scholarships to deserving students, volunteer in various community services, and give assistance to your mother town, Bacarra,” she noted.
Among the highlights of the 80th anniversary commemoration was an update on the accomplishments of UBA scholarship recipients through the years. They are now doctors, attorneys, engineers, university professors, business owners, and nurses among the multitude of ways they have been, and are now, paying back to society. One of them is Marlon G. Ramilo of Valley Heart Association in Modesto who is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular medicine, and nuclear cardiology. He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (summa cum laude), the University of California at San Francisco, the University of Texas Southwestern where he was also a resident instructor, and the University of Southern California where he completed his cardiovascular medicine fellowship.
One out of every 10 Lathrop resident is of Filipino ancestry
A City of Lathrop proclamation in 2009 noted that San Joaquin County’s youngest city has a “big population that originated from the town of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.”
The latest census also indicates that one out of every 10 residents in Lathrop is of Filipino ancestry.
The proclamation, issued on the sixth anniversary of the organization which officially made then Mayor Kristy Sayles as an honorary member of UBA, also pointed out that Lathrop was the first city in California to have a mayor who came from the Philippines. That mayor was the late Apolinar Sangalang, a Methodist minister and a survivor of the Bataan Death March during World War II. Sangalang Park behind Joseph Widmer, Jr. Elementary School was named in his honor.
Mayor Santos noted the many contributions of the organization to the Lathrop community through the years in his message to the members in the special commemorative issue marking the landmark anniversary occasion.
“The city of Lathrop is very proud to be associated with the United Bacarreneos of America. The Bacarreneos have done an outstanding job in representing Bacarra, our Sister City, throughout the Lathrop community. The support services, scholarships, volunteer time and community services your organization provide to the local Filipino community has to be commended,” he stated.
The current president of the organization is former Manteca resident Nerie Cudal Acosta who now lives in Lathrop.