The pine-scented streets of Baguio City was once again filled with a riot of color and music over the weekend as the Mountain City proved its repute as one of the Philippines best festival cities with Panagbenga Festival 2013.
Panagbenga Festival is the symbol of the rise of Baguio, enabling the summer capital to aim for the title of Asia’s flower capital. It is a month-long annual flower festival conceived in 1995 by John Hay Poro Point Development Corp. (JPDC, now John Hay Management Corp., or JHMC) to draw back tourists to the city, which had to rebuild following the 1990 Luzon earthquake catastrophe.
Panagbenga is a Kankanaey term which means “season of blooming.” The festival includes floats that are bedecked with flowers and also includes street dancing, presented by locals clad in flower-inspired costumes that are enthused by the Bendian, an Ibaloi dance of celebration that came from the Cordillera region.
The 18th year of the festival’s staging drew a huge crowd of close to two million foreign and local tourists who came to witness the Flower Float Parade, the highlight of the festival with the theme, “A Blooming Odyssey.”
Seventeen multi-hued and eye-catching floats decked out with fresh flowers joined the parade which started at about 8 in the morning from Burnham Park, and ended at the Athletic Bowl before noon.
Among the flower festooned floats that participated were those of the 2013 National Year of Rice “Sapat na Bigas” from the Department of Agriculture featuring rice sufficiency, NLEX, Argentina Corned Beef, Jollibee 35th Year, Smart Live More, Dole, San Miguel Brewery, Bio-derm, Casino Femt, and COOP.
Some of the star-studded floats included ABS-CBN’s with “Kailangan Ko’y Ikaw” star Robin Padilla, Marco Ocampo, Smokey Manaloto and other stars; GMA 7’s with its artists from the teleserye Indio led by Senator Bong Revilla and Rhian Ramos and other GMA artists; Placenta’s with the reigning Miss Earth Philippines; Baguio Country Club’s with BCC endorser Bb. Pilipinas Shamsey Supsup and M. Lhuilier’s with endorser Gary Valenciano.
The culmination of the month long Panagbenga Festival literally started with a bang after a hand grenade exploded outside the Baguio City Volunteers Against Crime (BCVAC) office located near the grandstand at Burnham Park.
Only a few spectators heard the explosion just an hour before the floral parade was to roll through downtown Baguio, but three people at the Melvin Jones Grandstand suffered injuries and were promptly treated for minor burns at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.
Meanwhile, the two-hour, 6-kilometer street parade highlighted by rhythmic dance steps from different ethnic, cultural groups and students started at 8 a.m. from Panagbenga Park and ended up at Athletic Bowl.
Surprisingly, unlike in the other festivals, there was no “Harlem Shake” nor “Gangnam Style” beat, but pure Cordilleran traditional songs and dances. The parade lived up to its profound support of indigenous culture and tradition, and thus nothing but native music accompanied by tribal instruments filled the parade air.
The brass band of the Philippine Military Academy was perhaps the only “violator” when they performed the “Gangnam” dance craze in several locations along the parade route and for the performance showdown.
The contingent from Kabayan, Benguet, and the 2012 champion performed the “Adiyay,” while second placer Tabuk City of Kalinga, Payao depicted the “Abuyog” or unity and cooperation among the Kalinga tribal folk.
Tourism officials and organizers, City of Pines Mayor Mauricio Domogan and Rep. Bernardo M. Vergara, and Philippine-Canadian Chamber of Commerce delegates from Toronto led parade participants. They were followed by PMA bands and different delegates from the sister cities like Taebaek, Gongju, Vaughan, Vallejo, Kalinga, Apayao, and Bontoc.
Very well represented likewise were the different schools in Baguio and nearby communities such as Aguinaldo Elem. School, Mabini Elem. School, Baguio Central School, Lucban Elem. School, Fort del Pilar Elem. School, Southern Luzon University, Elpidio Quirino Elem. School, Dona Aurora Elem. School, Quezon Hill Elem. School, San Vicente Elem. School, Josefa Carino Elem. Sch., Pinsao Nat’l. High Sch., St. Louis University and others.
Other performing artists like Litangfan Cultural Group from Mt. Province, Tanghalang Teatro Pino, The Kabayan Youth Cultural Dance Troupe, Bampkabia Cultural Dance, and Cordillera Cultural Performing Group also joined the parade.
Another crowd drawer was the “higantes” wearing flower-embroidered costumes and a big image of “Anito” borne by students, parading to the beat of drums and other musical instruments played by the drum and lyre bands.
The 130 students from Quezon Hill Elementary School wore costumes made from recycled brooms, plastic bags, and plastic bottles.