Missing the bull’s-eye

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Monday, March 4, 2013

WE’VE recently celebrated what many regard as the most colorful season in Baguio City -- the Panagbenga Festival. With at least 2.2 million tourists flooding all the roads en route to Athletic Bowl, it seemed so successful. With all hotels (and even hospitals) having been fully booked, one might come to really wonder -- what’s in Panagbenga? What makes these people so drawn, so captivated, so willing to take risks just to witness Baguio’s most treasured festival?

Maybe because it’s true that it’s one-of-a-kind? Maybe because it’s a reflection of Baguio’s rich tradition? Or maybe because a lot of actors and actresses join in the merry celebrations? I can’t speak of certainties to represent what those 2.2 million tourists think. But here’s something that I’m quite certain of and firmly stand for -- that something can “succeed” but still miss out the purpose of why in the first place, such a celebration or an event was held.

Themed “A Blooming Odyssey,” Panagbenga was set to unfold what Baguio and its neighboring provinces have gone through and how they have grown as the years went by. With this, I do commend the street dances presented as they really captured the riches of the Cordillera provinces. The splashy parade of floats adorned with priceless flowers was no exception. The floats were no doubt, breathtaking.


My eyes was opened, however, to how much Baguio profits from the places surrounding it like Benguet, La Trinidad, Itogon, and Sablan (Not that the benefits are not being reciprocated by Baguio in some ways). I think most people also have this hint that these flowers are being sourced out from Benguet and La Trinidad flower farms. If that’s the case, I don’t see why Baguio even celebrates a flower festival, if in the first place, it’s flower farms are numbered and are being paid attention to only as Panagbenga draws near. If it is celebrating a blooming odyssey and is holding close to its heart the flowers that once became a symbol of hope, why is the city not nurturing those numbered flower farms? I think it has opted to go industrial, as we now see buildings, malls and other industries replace trees and flowers. (Not that I’m saying it’s bad. I’m saying it’s just too much that we are now forgetting that Baguio is supposed to serve as a haven from the sweltering heat of the lowlands, and not to go to the same level and “developments” as those of the lowlands’.) I think it’s about time to remember that apart from putting on a good show and drawing in a lot of tourists, we, the people of Baguio should learn how to remember how these flowers saved us from the pains and losses brought by the 1991 earthquake. And then maybe, we would learn how to care about the environment more and truly love Baguio more.

I’d also like to underscore the city’s Session Road in bloom. During a conversation with my sister Jessica, she told me she has interviewed an environmentalist from England named Michael Stalley, who also joined in the celebration of Panagbenga. I would like to tell you all his thoughts about Panagbenga, not to create the impression that the rest of the 2.2 million tourists think the same, but to open up a simple idea that could probably swerve perceptions and open up eyes. Stalley said that as he treaded down Session Road, he tried to see where the “bloom” went but he wasn’t able to capture it. He, instead, saw a Session Road in “grease” with all the hotdog stands, inihaw and unli-rice stalls. Having been able to travel around some of the Philippines’ most treasured areas like Sagada, and Palawan, he was awestruck when he saw the Filipinos’ talents for handicraft and wished he saw more of those. In my own point of view, I think the organizers tried to “balance” the business side of event and the “bloom” side to showcase handicrafts. It’s just that, it’s still evident that the “grease” stalls truly outnumber the “bloom” stalls. Stalley also stated that the landscapes are such a waste because they are located in an area where a lot of people won’t be able to visit (unless they have a list of the to-see places in the city during Panagbenga.) Presenting it in an accessible landmark like Burnham Park, Stalley suggested, would be more tourist-friendly.

These are but musings from a curious girl like me. At the end of the day, I’ll say it again that I’m certain about this— that something can “succeed” but still miss out the purpose of why in the first place, such a celebration or an event was held. Yes, some may think this is useless, so pessimistic, and too idealistic. But I do believe in the power of evaluation and how it makes things and people better. It is by realizing what we missed out that we try to be better and better each time, drawing closer to the bull’s eye. I am a Baguio girl and I do think that my city is growing in countless ways. But sometimes, we tend to forget what Baguio really is and we try to stray from its original blueprint. When we do, it becomes hard to see the blooming odyssey that we say we are proud of. (Gloria Diane Rivera)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 05, 2013.


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