BAGUIO CITY – Last weekend, while everyone else in Manila was busy clamoring for a People Power, here in Baguio City, it was “Flower Power.” An estimated 200,000 people, including residents, local and foreign tourists, trooped to Session Road to witness the annual Panagbenga Festival’s grand parade of floats showcasing Benguet province’s wide variety of blooms. Around 20 floats of different shapes and sizes were garbed in colorful roses, chrysanthemums, daisies, tulips and azaleas, among others.
Now on its 11th year, the Baguio Flower Festival or popularly known as the "Panagbenga," is ongoing until March 12. Panagbenga is reminiscent of the "Tournament of Roses" or the "Rose Parade" held annually in Pasadena, California, USA on New Year’s Day.
Aside from the traditional "flower parade," dancers and drum and lyre corps from La Union, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Pasig City livened up the City’s major thoroughfares with their colorful costumes, amusing antics and drum beats to the tune of today’s pop songs. Markets and outdoor cafés also lined up the streets.
This year’s festival was different because the people were treated to two parades. The two contending organizers, Baguio Flower Festival Association (BFFA) and Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. (BFFFI), staged their own separate festival highlights on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Both parades were held along Session Road, winding up at the Athletic Bowl near Burnham Park.
Residents and visitors who watched the parade on Saturday, shrieked as the float of the hit reality television show "Pinoy Big Brother" passed them. Many people, mostly with camera phones, spilled to the streets and took some snapshots of the so-called "housemates." On Sunday, it was actress Judy Ann Santos, who caused a pandemonium in the streets.
"Panagbenga," a Kankanaey term meaning "a time for blossoming," was the brainchild of lawyer Damaso Bangaoet, former John Hay Poro Point Development Corporation (JHPPDC) managing director for Camp John Hay. It was launched in 1995 to revive the spirit of Baguio residents, as well as its tourism industry after a destructive earthquake hit the city in 1990. So, it is fitting to say, that the festival serves as a symbol of strength and resiliency of the city and its people.
Baguio City, also dubbed as the country’s "Summer Capital", has never lost its charm. It continues to be a favored destination for those who want to escape the hot weather in lowland metropolises. Likewise, it never fails to amaze with its refreshing climate, picturesque landscapes and the wonderful mixture of people and cultures.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) expects that in the coming months, more tourists will troop to Baguio to spend their summer vacation and Holy Week. Among the favorite destinations here include the Baguio Cathedral, Philippine Military Academy, the Mansion Camp, the Lourdes Grotto, Mines View Park, Burnham Park and Camp John Hay, the former military reservation camp turned sanctuary for vacationers.
The city is also adored by bargain hunters for its "ukay-ukay" where imported cheap fashion finds abound.
Apart from being a premier destination, Baguio City also serves as a gateway to the awe-inspiring sights of the Cordilleras. Among these are the world famous Ifugao Rice Terraces, Benguet’s centuries-old Kabayan mummies and Mount Pulag, which at 9,640 ft. is the highest mountain peak in Luzon, the Sagada Caves and the hanging coffins in Mountain Province.
[ Lourdes Grotto Wiki | Burnham Park Wiki ]