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Iż-Żebbuġ Local Council Twines with Maletto (Sicily)
On Saturday 30th November 2002, the Iż-Żebbuġ Local Council has endorsed a Twinning Agreement with the Council of Maletto in Iż-Żebbuġ (Gozo).
The Twinning Agreement was signed by the Mayor and Deputy Mayors of the two localities; Mr Harry Debono and Mr Joe Bajada for the Iż-Żebbuġ Local Council and Mr Nunzio Parrinello and Mr Giuseppe De Luca for the Council of Maletto. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Anton Tabone and Minister for Gozo, Giovanna Debono attended for the official ceremony. Also attended for this one time event over hundred of citizens from Maletto together with a number of residents from Iż-Żebbuġ . During ceremony, the Saint Mary Band of Iż-Żebbuġ executed a musical programme. Various activities were organised to mark this important event. The citizens of Maletto also made a visit to the President of Malta, His Excellency Profs. Guido De Marco.
Important to mention that this was possibble only with the financial assistance of the European Union.
 On Friday 17th June 2005 a group of around 100 people from Iż-Żebbuġ started their adventure to Sicily in conjugation of the twinning between Iż-Żebbuġ , Gozo and Maletto, Sicily. Leaving Iż-Żebbuġ very early in the morning to catch the 7 o’clock catamaran to Pozzallo, arriving their after 90 minutes. On the quay it started to rain heavily and we had to run to board the coach. Finally we all settled down also we were greeted by some members of the Local Council of Maletto. The trip took around four hours. On arriving at Bronte the group was than accommodated into three different hotels. Lunch was served at Fontana Murata Restaurant.
In the afternoon all met at the verge of the village of Maletto where a quite big number of people came to our direction accompanied by the local band Vincenzo Bellini of Maletto. Both groups welcomed and interacted quickly with each other. Than together we made our way to the main square of Maletto were the Mayor of Maletto Mr. Giuseppe De Luca delivered his welcome speech which was replied by the head of the delegation Mr. Joe Bajada. The main square was bustling with activity in preparation for the Strawberry feast.
The group than proceeded to the local parish church for the Holy Eucharist which was celebrated by Fr Noel Saliba, Parish Priest of Iż-Żebbuġ accompanied by Fr Karm Cini, Fr Mariano Zammit, Rector of Marsaforn’s church and Fr Alfred Farrugia MSSP, Director of Dar Stella Maris of Iż-Żebbuġ . The Liturgy and the music were celebrated in Maltese and Italian. In the evening on the main stage erected in the main square, we were given a special treat by the students of the local primary school. A musical show portraying how all humans irrespectively of color, religion and culture should live hand in hand together. During the show, for the first time some of our young local singers had the opportunity to sing outside the Maltese islands.
On Saturday after breakfast, the group proceeded to St Anthony’s Church, which was reconstructed in 1785. St Anthony is the patron saint of Maletto and every year in the month of September a great feast is held in honor of the saint with the participation of the entire population of Maletto. Mass was celebrated for the group. The music ministry compose of members of Family Cini sang and played Maltese and Italian hymns during the Eucharist. After mass everybody left for the Campo Sportivo for a football match between Iż-Żebbuġ Rovers F.C. and Maletto. Both teams were given a warm welcome as they entered the pitch. Obviously our team had a very strong support! The National Anthems were played followed by the presentation of both teams by Iż-Żebbuġ's Mayor Mr. Carmelo Saliba and Mr. Giuseppe De Luca Mayor of Maletto. Mr. Joe Bajada, Vice Major of Iż-Żebbuġ , who is also a qualified referee, controlled the match. Iż-Żebbuġ won the game by a single goal from Sylvan Galea who scored during the second half of the match.
After the match we left for lunch at the Fontana Murata Restaurant during which we had the opportunity to meet His Lordship Mons. Salvatore Gristina, Archbishop of Catania. His Lordship also accepted to attend the celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the coronation of the image of Our Lady venerated at the parish of Iż-Żebbuġ . After lunch the group was all taken for an interesting tour of Nelson’s Castle in Maniace, a village close to Maletto. This magnificent castle was given by the King of the Two Sicilies to Lord Nelson for his heroic efforts to help the Sicilians to drive out the French.
In the evening The Strawberry Fair was getting under way. The group was very fortunate to be in time for this annual event held in Maletto. In the main square there were many stalls of food, tools, local cheese and of course strawberries. Maletto is founded above all upon agriculture. Large areas are used for the cultivation of strawberries. Every year in the month of June, a Strawberry Fair (Sagra della Fragole) is held in Maletto.
 This attracts tourists and visitors from all over Sicily. The climax of the Strawberry Fair is when the locals cook and prepare a gigantic strawberry cake weighing more than one thousand kilos. The Fair usually goes for about three days from Friday to Saturday. Three kinds of strawberries are cultivated in Maletto. The bright red colored traditional strawberry with a very sweet taste, the little strawberry used for cakes and tarts and the so-called “blooming again” which ripens from December to January. During the music spectacle our local talent participated again and were all applauded for there excellent performances.
The signing of the second agrrement between Iż-Żebbuġ and Maletto was held on Sunday 19th June 2005. It was the climax of the Iż-Żebbuġ delegation during this to visit Maletto. The day started off with an open air mass in front of St Anthony’s church. A huge crowd gathered in front of the church. Mass was celebrated by Fr Noel Saliba, together with Fr Karm Cini, Fr Mariano Zammit and Fr Alfred Farrugia MSSP. Mass was said in both languages and also the liturgical music. At the end of the Mass a leaflet was distributed among the congregation prepared by Mr. Joe Bajada. It represented information about holy men Fr. George Preca, founder of the Doctrine Society of MUSEUM, Fr. Mons. Guseppi De Piro, founder of the Missionary Society of St Paul and Fr. Karm Cachia, a priest from Iż-Żebbuġ that passed away with the fame of holy. Both societies work in the local parish of Iż-Żebbuġ . Also featured was Brother Baskal, a Capuchin Friar who was born in Iż-Żebbuġ and lived a very holy life. It also featured a prayer for St Anthony and of Mary assumption into Heaven, the patrons of Maletto and Iż-Żebbuġ respectively. At the end of the mass both prayers were recited by Maletto’s parish priest Don Alfio Longhitano.
After mass, in the main square of the village, 4th November Square, the official signing of the twinning between Maletto and Iż-Żebbuġ was held. The musical band Vincenzo Bellini of Maletto participated in this important event. The official signing was held on the main stage in the square prepared for this occasion. The official ceremony initiated by major Mr. Giuseppe De Luca who welcomed everyone present and explained the significant and the importance of this twinning between the two communities.
This was reciprocated by Mr. Carmelo Saliba, major of Iż-Żebbuġ . Then both majors and vice majors, Mr. Vincenzo Sgro` and Mr. Joe Bajada signed the official documents and were exchanged to a rousing ovation from the crowd. Before the event was concluded, major Mr. De Luca presented the honorary citizenship to Mr. Carmelo Saliba, Major of Iż-Żebbuġ , Mr. Harry Debono, ex major, Mr. Joe Bajada Vice Major and to the Parish priest Kan. Noel Saliba. Both national anthems were played at the end of the ceremony.
Major Mr. De Luca invited everyone for the unveiling the monument to commemorate the occasion in front of the Local Council headquarters. Before the unveiling, major Mr. De Luca thanked Mr. Joe Bajada for his contribution in bringing this twinning from a dream to reality. Mr. Bajada was deeply moved by Mr. De Luca’s speech. Finally the monument was unveiled as a remembrance of this historic occasion for Maletto and for Iż-Żebbuġ .
In the evening everybody was invited again to the main square for the climax of the Strawberry feast. Huge strawberry cakes were made for his occasion. It was estimated that around 1,500 kgs. of strawberry cake were prepared for this year’s occasion. The biggest strawberry cake was exhibited on the main stage. As Major of Maletto, Mr. G. De Luca thanked everyone for the success of this year Strawberry feast and eventually he than took centre stage and cut the main cake to the delight of the crowd. More than 20,000 people had the opportunity to taste a piece of the strawberry cake.
The European Commission of Education and Culture together with the Municipal Administration of Maletto have programmed an action of administration to safeguard the local heritage and the natural resources of the region inserted into a wider European context. To promote this European citizenship through twinning between cities, a three-day conference was organized with the participation of both communities twinning of Maletto and Iż-Żebbuġ and the University of Durham. This event has been partial financed by the European Commission. These meetings were held in Maletto from the 20th to the 22nd of June 2005 at the Fontana Murata Restaurant, surrounded by a beautiful landscape dominated by Etna. The co-ordinator was Dr Salvatore Russo.
On Monday, the citizens of Iż-Żebbuġ participated on the first day of this conference. Various speakers spoke different issues ranging from history to local trade.
Interesting was the talk delivered by representative of Durham University who talked about the presence of similar Norman Architecture both in Durham and in Sicily. Such similarities are under study. He mentioned that the Norman Cathedral of Durham goes back to 1093. Maletto’s Major Mr. G. De Luca addressed the history of Maletto and how it was influenced throughout the times by different denominations in Sicily. Other speakers were Mr. Salvatore Grassi President of AISI, Sicily and Dr P Agen. Maltese contribution came through Iż-Żebbuġ's Major, Mr. Carmelo Saliba who spoke about the industry of Gozo, which has seen a revival after independence. Mr. Joe Bajada, Vice Major of Iż-Żebbuġ spoke about the importance of twinning and how such initiatives can be beneficial to both communities.
Later in the day, as an expertise in Maltese cuisine, Mr. Bajada spoke that although the Maltese have there proper cuisine inherited by there ancestors but surely influenced however by different dominations who ruled Malta and Gozo. Finally the Parish priest of Iż-Żebbuġ , Kan Noel Saliba spoke about Maltese trade especially in the development of cotton and the construction industry. He mentioned the Ghazziela, a 400-year-old tradition that seems to have survived only in Iż-Żebbuġ . At the end Mr. G De Luca presented tokens to those who participated as speakers during the conference.
Also for this occasion a book about Iż-Żebbuġ and Marsaforn published by Mr. Joe Bajada and sponsored by the Local Council of Iż-Żebbuġ together with a set of souvenir cards were distributed among those present for the conference. Later the group visited the village of Randazzo.
In the evening the Iż-Żebbuġ group was invited to the Municipal Administration of Maletto. Mr. G De Luca thanked the Local Council of Iż-Żebbuġ for making it possible to realize the final stage of twinning between the two communities. He also hoped that this was the initial process, which will now continue to bear fruit in different exchanges between both communities. Both communities exchanged gifts. Also Mr. Stephen Cini, secretary of St Mary Band Club, Iż-Żebbuġ , presented CDs of the band to Mr. G. De Luca.
At the end as a sign of appreciation to Mr. Joe Bajada for his outstanding contribution he has given for the realization of this twinning between Maletto and Iż-Żebbuġ , Mr. De Luca nominated Mr. Bajada as the official ambassador of Maletto.
Mr. De Luca than invited the whole Iż-Żebbuġ contingent for an official Goodbye by the people of Maletto. A musical performed by the local students was performed for us in the main square of the village. At the end the Mr. G De Luca presented a trophy to Mr. Carmel Saliba, secretary of Iż-Żebbuġ Rovers FC on behalf of the committee and players on winning the football game against Maletto.
Early in the morning of Tuesday 21st June 2005, the Iż-Żebbuġ group left Maletto on the way back to Gozo. On the way there was a stop at Adrano’s open market were everybody was given the opportunity to buy clothes, shoes eand many other things at a very reasonable prices. Later the group paid a visit to Taormina were mass was celebrated before heading to the final destination to Catania. At 8.00p.m. everybody was on the Catamaran and after three hours the group finally got back to Malta.The group arrived safe and sound at Iż-Żebbuġ around 2.00a.m. of Wednesday.
Obviously this was a wonderful opportunity for everybody. In no doubth it was a dream, which came through. This was surely a great benefit for the Iż-Żebbuġ community to have had this opportunity of getting closer and understanding what this twinning as been all about.
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