BAGUIO CITY – Despite the meningococcemia crisis, the Panagbenga Festival here went on last month with much fanfare and a resounding success. It has been said that in this city, the Summer Capital of the Philippines, flowers bloom all year round. But it is after the coolest months of November, December and January that they bloom in full regalia.
When we arrived in Baguio, the first thing we did was to visit the Lourdes Grotto in Dominican Hill to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary for guidance and blessings. We proceeded to SM City Baguio later and watched with delight Bituin Escalante’s powerful singing voice.
The next day was the street dancing competition and parade, which was graced by Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano. There were many participants in the dancing competition but I think, the most outstanding were the participants from the Baguio City National High School. Their costumes were simply amazing, gorgeous and marvelous! Fifteen performers each participated from five high schools, six from colleges and four from the open category.
The big event was the Floral Parade Competition led by Baguio City Mayor Braulio D. Yaranon. Celebrities gave color to the already colorful parade of flowers such as controversial sexy stars D’Bodies, hunk singers Masculados, Alma Moreno and Eddie Gil.
The Marching Band Competition in between the floats contributed to the success of the colorful event. Representatives from the Saint Louis University, the University of Baguio, Pines City National High School and the University of Cordillera were truly a delight to watch.
Twenty-four floats paraded embodying this year’s Panagbenga theme: "Balik-Bulaklak." Among the floral floats that stood out was the one from Ruperto’s Inland Resort from Binalonan, Pangasinan. Grace Zabala of the Ruperto’s Resort told me that the float cost them R90,000. The 3,000 flowers came all the way from Tagaytay, Los Baños and Baguio. It consists of Anthuriums, Heliconias, 3 kinds of orchids (Dancing Lady, Sonia and Dendro-blums), Tube Rose (Azuceña), Palong (Celosias), White Aster, Bachelor’s Buttons, Golden Rod and Malaysian Moms (Fiji, Cleopatra, Reagan and Cotton Boss). Peacock’s delight is the motif of the said float that pays tribute to mother nature’s bounties.
This year’s winners in the float parade were: Chowking (1st place), SM Baguio (2nd) and Ruperto’s Inland Resort (3rd).
Panagbenga is reminiscent of the "Tournament of Roses" in Pasadena, California, USA, held every New Year’s Day. It is a parade of American blooms such as azaleas, begonias rexes, bromeliads, chrysanthemums, Margaret daisies, heliconias, tulips and other temperate flowers that normally grow only in 22 degrees Celsius and below temperature.
The Igorots have a word for Panagbenga, in their native Kankanaey, which means "a season for blossoming, a time for flowering."
Around 1.5 million spectators watched the Panagbenga last year as compared to less than a million this year. This apparently was caused by fear of meningococcemia. Nevertheless, the participants were unfazed.
[ Lourdes Grotto Wiki ]