EVERY year, Baguio City showcases its wonderful and colorful Northern heritage, traditions and values through its month-long Panagbenga Festival. Organized by the city government and the Panagbenga Foundation every February, the flower festival attracts one of the largest tourist gatherings in the country.
This year, the 19th Panagbenga Flower Festival began from February 1 and ends today, with a fulfilled aim to further boost tourism in Baguio City and the Cordilleras. It did so by offering a variety of activities for the community, as well as local and foreign tourists, to enjoy.
Highlighting the best of the region’s offerings and focusing on cultural diversity, the Panagbenga festival hosted over 20 events including the Drum and Lyre Dance Competition; the Landscaping Exhibition and Exposition; the Ifugao Art Exhibition; the food bazaar of Session Road in Bloom; and the Panagbenga Run 2014, among others.
“With the help of the Panagbenga, tourism in the city has grown steadily. Although it is unfortunate, we are aware that the calamity in the south has brought local tourists to the north. The low temperature has also contributed to the increase of [tourists this year]. Because aside from the activities that Baguio has to offer, people who come want to experience temperatures that go down as low as eight degrees,” said Freddie Alquiros, co-chairman of the Panagbenga Foundation at a press conference at The Manor Veranda in Camp John Hay on February 23.
Two main events
The highlight of the flower festival comes in a two-day street parade starting from the Panagbenga Park along Session Road all the way to the Athletic Bowl, Baguio City’s sports arena.
Usually held towards the last weekend of February, these back-to-back events are the Grand Street Dance Parade followed by the Grand Float Parade.
Fifteen schools competed at the Grand Street Parade on February 22. Although the parade started at 8 a.m., people came in as early as 5 a.m. to secure a good spot to view the performances.
The first prize of P130,000 from the city government went to Mabini Elementary School. Their performance highlighted the beauty of sunflowers painted in native bayongs partnered with adorable children wearing baro’t saya.
The open category of the street dance parade featured the famed Igorot textile abel on vests and the bahag. First prize went to the Kamora National High School, with P200,000 from the city government.
“We are happy to showcase the beautiful culture of Baguio and the Cordilleras. Although we have modern themes like Plants vs. Zombies and cosplay, we still strive to showcase the best of our local culture. Imagine, we are the only ones left who wear our ties on our waists instead of our necks!” Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan laughed during his turn at interviews during the press conference.
The Grand Float Parade on February 23, meanwhile, was more packed than the previous day. There were 19 competing entries from big brands across different industries, including Smart Communications, Jollibee, M. Lhuillier Pawnshop, and Le Monet Hotel.
GMA Network brought in Carmela stars Marian Rivera and Alden Richards, which drew big cheers from the crowd. For many, the Kapuso stars were “the most beautiful flowers” in the parade. Other who joined the colorful parade included Miss Philippines Earth 2012 Stephany Stefanowitz for Beauche International, Ogie Alcasid for M. Lhuillier, and cosplayer Alodia Gosengfiao for Smart.
“Each float could cost up to P250,000, but there is no required amount for the entries. We only require that the floats are 95 percent bedecked with flowers, has to be mobile on its own, with initial designs passing through us,” Panagbenga Foundation chairman Anthony De Leon explained to The Manila Times.
Places to go
Besides its richness in talent, culture and blooms, Baguio also boasts of many destinations around the city. Camp John Hay (CJH), for one, has The Manor that “defines a luxurious retreat in the Cordilleras.”
“Aside from the view, the golf course, and other activities that we have available, we want The Manor to be viewed as a wellness and culture attraction in Baguio. Leisure packages like the eco-trail and the butterfly sanctuary gives our visitors more reason to visit CJH,” said Heinrich Maulbecker, managing director of The Manor.
Mouth-watering continental dishes are also offered at the Le Chef restaurant located at the hotel lobby. It is run by renowned Irish chef Billy King who was reportedly the official chef of the Red Hot Chili Peppers band during their stay in the country for an international music festival last weekend.
Another unique destination is Mother’s Garden located just 15 minutes from Baguio’s City Hall. There, one can enjoy organic vegetables that are freshly picked and served.
More to expect
In 2015, the Panagbenga Festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary and this early organizers are already in the thick of preparations. “Since we are celebrating our 20th year in 2015, we are already talking about new ideas we want to bring into the Panagbenga. It’s going to be a milestone for us, so we want to make it grand,” de Leon confirmed.
The chairman revealed that they are looking to bring in a hot air balloon show as well as flight demonstration at the Loakan airport. Of course, the cultural traditions that the Philippines’ Summer Capital will continue to be the event’s highlights, which after all is the very reason why the Panagbenga Festival continues to exist.