8 reasons to be at the Panagbenga this year

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Friday, February 21, 2014

“WHAT’S new?”

This is the most common question of tourists or even a Baguio resident when the Panagbenga draws near.

For a local media man, I would probably answer them “a lot”, much to their surprise.


Every year, the annual flower spectacle never fails to amuse me. Little by little, the festival metamorphoses into something that is a delight to witness for locals and tourists alike.

Let’s forget about being critics and instead see how it has improved over the years.

While some aspects may have been amiss, such as poor barangay participation, the horrendous traffic and mounting garbage, I always believe locals have a way to deal with the annual influx of tourists.

After all, the Panagbenga is not just for the people of Baguio but for the millions of tourists, mostly families and barkadas, wanting a perfect weekend of entertainment and fun.

As Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.”

And with a glimmer of optimism at hand, and a bagful of positivity, here’s what I believe are eight new reasons why the Festival remains as a million crowd drawer up north.

8. Baguio Blooms and Session Road in Bloom. Some will probably ask, “What’s new with that?” But I would emphatically say, “Year in and year out, we see the common shawarma and foot long hotdog stalls alright, but hey, there’s always that new stall for knickknacks, accessories and pasalubongs one could imagine.”

Baguio Blooms, for example, has export quality shoes, lamps, decorations and other thingamajigs one could ever want in their living rooms.

“And the food selections?” another critic will ask.

Well, aside from the usual fare, we have good baby back ribs, lugaw which remain the best comfort food after partying in the numerous concerts and the cold weather experienced this week. And there are quality pastries, pasta and Chinese food, too!

And there’s Session Road in Bloom and its awesome offerings for a week.
7. Animals. One of the highlights during the Panagbenga Opening parades were the dogs dressed in various costumes such as ballerinas, fairies and superheroes. This only shows how Baguio is canine-friendly.

Horses take the arena on March for the annual Pony Boys’ Day, an institutionalized activity which has prevailed and kept the Western links of the city with people wearing boots, denims, plaids, leather boots and cowboy hats.

6. Aerial spectacle. We have drones, kites and fireworks. Fitting symbols the Baguio Flower Fest is soaring high through the years. Panagbenga Executive Committee chairman Anthony De Leon highlighted the use of drones to monitor traffic and take a good picture of the droves of tourists expected to arrive over the weekend. The kite fest, too, was a family bonding time for father and sons and daughters during the Handog sa Panagbenga sa Pamilya Baguio.

5. Oddities. “Have you heard of Panagbong-gay?” one colleague asked over Facebook. “What’s that?” I asked in return. Well, he says it’s a beauty pageant for gays.

The Panagbenga is also a venue for expressing equality in the LGBT community and what better way to celebrate it with colorful blooms and a pageant? Filipinos are indeed pageant aficionados.

Of course, that is not the only odd thing in this year’s Panagbenga. We had etag burger last year courtesy of Inglay restaurant. So what do we expect this year? Again I would say “a lot.”

4. Smiles. Whether it’s the smile of your favorite Kapamilya or Kapuso stars waving back at you in the float parade or the smile of the little girl street dancer, the smiles of both participants and spectators send good vibes to everyone. While Baguio may not be the city of smiles, its people continue to flash their pearly whites even those with a missing tooth and red stained ones, too.

3. Ibaloi Fest. The early settlers of Baguio whose contribution to the establishment of the city is undoubtedly priceless participate in this year’s annual festivities, too.
Join their Bendiyan and Tayaw dances or learn how to play solibao and gangsa. As soon as the street dance parade ends, tourists and local must head to the Ibaloi Park inside Burnham Park where one will have the opportunity to experience the unique culture and tradition of the city’s early settlers.

2. Flowers, Flowers, Flowers. As Ramon Jimenez, Department of Tourism Secretary says, the beauty of Panagbenga is intertwined with the flowers and indeed an assortment of blooms never fail to captivate the crowd both in the flower floats and landscape competition.

Panagbenga, a Kankanaey term which means a season of blooming is indeed evident in city parks and playgrounds recently planted with blooming perennials. And there are the flower vendors along Harrison Road which also is a must stop for visitors wanting to buy flowers for their loved ones back home.

1. Going Green. With this year’s pro-environment theme, waste reduction efforts have also been initiated by organizers this year. An estimated more than 2,000 tons of garbage are expected to be contributed in this year’s festivities but organizers are moving forward with green initiatives such as banning plastics at Session Road in Bloom and Baguio Blooms. The Baguio Citizens No Waste Initiative also advocated for the use of bayongs and reusable bags.

So there you go. Don’t ask “what is new?” in this year’s festivities as this list can go on and on and on. After all, we only need to open our eyes to the beautiful things in life.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 22, 2014.

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