AS the Baguio Flower Festival gains global fame and draws more crowds every year, concerns were raised regarding the commercialization of indigenous culture – the solemn and sacred traditions of the ethnic people being reduced as mere entertainment to tourists.
Local residents observed that the real essence of their annual festival was lost to big establishments that sponsor dancers and flower floats carrying their logos. This year’s festivities were held Saturday where 22 street dance groups paraded, and Sunday where 23 flower floats paraded.
Critics claim that aside from the suffocating crowd and heavy traffic during the celebration, development from the festival itself is not manifested outside the central business district.
Some locals lament the fact that Panagbenga is marred with irregularity claiming that there was no clear accounting as to the income of the festivities that consistently draws thousands of local and foreign tourists.
Panagbenga is managed by Baguio Flower Festival Foundation Inc. Its failure to submit the report of festival’s income and expenses to the city council has put a dent in the accountability of BFFFI in recent years.
Festival not ritual
Asked to comment on the observation of critics, Mayor Mauricio Domogan clarified that Panagbenga is a community-led festival showcasing indigenous culture and is not a ritual.
“There is no commercialization in Panagbenga,” he said.
“Panunotentayo a nasayaat, ti commercialization aramidem ti kastoy ta bayadan ka. Awan ti kasta iti Panagbenga. (Think about it carefully. In commercialization, you do something for a fee. This does not happen in Panagbenga),” Domogan added.
“No agbaag tayo, no agsala tayo (If we wear G-string and dance), it is to tell the world that we are proud of our culture,” he stressed.
He added that tourists during the festival give indirect economic contribution for the development of the city.
As to the income derived during the events, he said BFFFI is a registered non-profit, non-stock organization so the report is submitted to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the profit deposited for use in succeeding festivals.
Similarly, the Ibaloi Day, celebrated every Feb. 23 in commemoration of their indigenous culture, is independent from Panagbenga.
About 4,000 folk gathered at the Ibaloy heritage Garden in Burnham Park in celebration of the 7th Ibaloi Day on Feb. 20 that lasted for four days.
“We should have been part of the Panagbenga but we realized that it is already commercialized so we retracted. Yes, there are misrepresentations of the Ibaloi culture and traditions,” said Leopoldo Lamsis, president of Onjon ni Ivadoy Inc. in Baguio City.
He said their culture and rituals are significant because that what binds them together.
“If there is dispute in any way, these rituals resolve the problem,” Lamsis said.
He agreed that indigenous culture and traditions could be distorted in festival presentations like the street dancing and field demonstrations.