Tourists were captivated by Baguio’s world famous Panagbenga Festival once again, celebrating the Summer Capital’s colorful blooms and equally vibrant culture. Also known as the “Baguio Flower Festival,” the month-long Panagbenga is considered one of the biggest and most-visited fiestas in the Philippines every year in February.
While the floral-covered float parade and street dancers costumed in color blooms remain the main highlight of the festival, the Panagbenga this year also helped the younger generation Baguio rediscover their indigenous peoples’ age-old traditions. The dances alone demonstrated movement developed by the Ibaloi of the Cordillera Region.
The Sunday Times Magazine joined a media contingent from Manila on a two-day visit to the City of Pines, and had the privilege to sit down with Baguio Flower Festival Foundation Inc. (BFFFI) Executives.
According to Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan, they more or less welcomed 2 million attendees for the two-day Panagbenga on February 25 and 26, making all their effort worth it.
“We usually start preparing for the festival in September of each year. We issue an administrative order towards the end of October and then launch the next Flower Festival in November. The other components like peace and order are also part of the preparation,” the mayor shared.
This year, in comparing the float parade of 2016, the BFFFI said there is no question they gathered the biggest crowd in recent memory. They attributed the draw of more attendees to the festival to updates they made on the parade.
“Before, we only had large categories for floats, but this year, we opened the competition to smaller floats too, which is why we had more competing floats, and of course more participants for 2017,” shared Anthony De Leon, BFFFI co-chairman.
“Secondly, we limited participation for elementary, high school and college divisions from the Cordillera as far as the street dance is concerned, but you must have noticed that this year, we also ran an Open Category, which was not only for students from Baguio and the Cordillera region, but even La Union, Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, among others,” he added.
For the big float competition, first place went to NLEX/MNTC; second place, SITEL; and third place, the Department of Tourism. For the small floats, Mayback won first prize, while second and third prizes went to Coca-Cola and Zenfone.
Meanwhile, for street dance competition, the students of Apolinario Mabini Elementary School were declared grand winners, while second place went to Baguio City National High School; and third, Pugo Catholic School.
This year too, the Panagebenga was truly an international festival what with the participation of its sister cities. Three cities from South Korea were well represented; and there were also delegations from Taipei, Guangzhou and Hanyu in Japan.
From within the Philippines, Quezon Province, Candelaria, Santiago City Isabela, Bani, Pangasinan, and Ilocos Sur also took part in the festivities, which furthered cultural exchanges among youths.
“This is the mother of festivals in Luzon,” De Leon informed. “There were no other festivals before besides the Panagbenga. Our festival started 22 years ago, and since then the rest of the regions and municipalities surrounding us saw the benefits in tourism when holding a festival, and they followed suit.”
De Leon also pointed out that Panagbenga is the only festival in the country that is registered with the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA) in the United States because of its rich history.
“The objective there is to bring the festival into the international scene, so we document our activities and send it to them. The IFEA in turn can provide grants to benefit the festival in so many ways.”
For Mayor Domogan, however, the best feature of the Panagbenga is the spirit of volunteerism among the people of Baguio and the Cordillera region. With just a small budget each year, they are able to make the world pay attention to the Philippine Summer Capital and its rich culture.
“We are happy that we are able to produce this kind of festival despite the minimal budget because our consider this as their own festival, which is why they are simply proud to be able to participate and do their share to make it a success,” he ended.