Erap sings to sister city: I left my heart in San Francisco

Edwin Lee, the first Asian American elected mayor of San Francisco in California, visits sister city of Manila for the first time – and is charmed by its famous mayor

FRIENDSHIP RENEWAL. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and San Francisco Mayor Edwin M Lee sign a 'renewal of friendship' between sister cities Manila and San Francisco. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – He couldn’t help it. Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, a former actor, charmed San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee on Wednesday, February 19, by singing him a few lines from Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

Lee is the first Asian American elected mayor of San Francisco, California, in the United States. While it was his first time to visit Manila, the ties that bind the two cities go back 53 years ago, when the San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee was formed in 1961. 

Lee arrived on Tuesday along with a delegation of over 40 business people, community leaders, and government officials from San Francisco. On Wednesday, the committee toured Luneta Park at around 9 am for a wreath laying before going to Manila City Hall.

Lee was elected in 2011 after serving as interim mayor, after former mayor Gavin Newsom was elected Lieutenant Governor of the State of California.

While Lee has the distinction of being the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco, Estrada jokes, “I have the distinction of being the first ex-convict mayor of Manila.”

He compared himself to Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar. “We are all men of conviction,” he joked. 

The Filipino American community in San Francisco contribute much to the city’s vibrancy, said Lee. 

“This visit is very personal to the mayor,” said Al Perez, a Fil-Am Sister City commissioner who helped organize the trip. Before becoming mayor, Lee oversaw disaster response and worked closely with San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management.

On February 20, Lee will speak at the SF Gives Back forum, where they will discuss San Francisco’s contribution to relief efforts in areas destroyed by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Perez said emergency response experts from San Francisco will also share their best practices in the forum. 

A business forum will take place on February 21 at the Asian Institute of Management, in an effort to generate bilateral investments between Manila and San Francisco. 

Filipino Americans make up at least 4.5% of San Francisco’s population. Many of them trace their roots to Manila. The city of San Francisco has seen a rise of Filipino Americans in government, including the late Civil Service Commissioner Anita Sanchez, who was the highest ranking Fil-Am government employee in San Francisco,  and the mayor’s education adviser Hydra Mendoza. –


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