Panagbenga @Twenty
Bona Elisa O. Resurreccion (The Philippine Star) - February 22, 2015 - 12:00am

(With permission to publish from the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation Incorporated. More about the Panagbenga Festival at

As flowers go, in 1996 the Baguio Flower Festival proved it was not a night-blooming cereus; a flower that unfurls its petals in a matter of hours, reaching its fullest bloom at midnight. Thereafter, its petals wilt just as quickly so much so that by sunrise the flower head hangs limply on the stem. Instead, the ensuing 18 seasons for blooming that is the Panagbenga Festival evoked the staying power and magnificence of an orchid.

That is reason enough to rejoice. To celebrate the Panagbenga Festival’s 20th anniversary here are 20 reasons to come and tips on how to make the most of your Panagbenga experience. It will be a multi-sensory experience with feasts to satisfy your eyes, nose, ears, tongue, not to mention your sense of fun and taste for adventure.

1. Be part of the energy generated by the hustle, bustle and jostle of two million revelers in Baguio. There is nothing quite like it: the anticipation, the excitement that reduce the hassle of traffic jams, lack of transportation, overcrowded places to tolerable inconveniences.

Get into the rhythm of things during Opening Day Parade, which will serve as the elimination round of the Drum and Lyre competition on February 1st. Later the Opening Concert will be held at SM City. Spend a leisurely day checking out the Baguio Blooms Exhibition and Exposition at Lake Drive, at Burnham Lake. Wear comfy shoes and layered clothes that you can peel off as the day heats up and don back on as the air gets nippy after sunset.

2. Get into the Panagbenga Spirit. Paint a flower on your cheeks, chest, arms and legs. If you can’t imagine yourself as a human canvass, wear a floral print. Or surprise someone special with a bouquet of flowers or place a single bloom on a vase to brighten your day.

3. Shop ‘til you drop at the Baguio Blooms Exhibition and Exposition. Formerly known as the “Market Encounter,” its earliest incarnation was meant to promote and encourage the development of Cordillera's flower-related industries as a forum wherein information and technology are shared among experts in floriculture and related fields with enthusiasts and the general public. It also served as a market for flowers and related products. Over the years the range of products have expanded and it has attracted merchants of a wide assortment of products from as faraway as Nueva Ecija, Marikina and Laguna. You’ll have more than enough time to go back as the Market Encounter will be open throughout the Festival.

4. Feast your eyes at the Landscaping Competition. Local landscapers will showcase their floricultural produce and creativity at Lake Drive from February 1 to March 8. If you get the urge to stop and smell the flowers, do so at the flowers beds at Burnham Park, Botanical Garden and at the Flower shops.  Just remember this is a visual and olfactory buffet; picking the flowers is not allowed.

5. Take a paintbrush and let the inner artist in you bloom on the Melvin Jones Grounds. Originally introduced as a pre-festival activity, Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom was held a week before the Opening Parade. These allowed the banners created to be hanged along the major routes of the City. Today it is held as part of Handog ng Panagbenga sa Pamilya Baguio.

6. Have a family day out on February 15 at the Melvin Jones grounds. This action field day includes not only Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom but also the Kite Flying Challenge and the Panagbenga Variety Show. The day is capped with a burst of fireworks.

7. Wake up extra early to grab the best vantage points for the Festival’s biggest draws: the Street Dancing Competition on February 28th, and the Grand Float Parade on March 1st.    A seat at the Athletic Bowl gives you a chance not only a chance to view the performances of the street dancers on the field but also the opportunity to get a close look of the floats. Do resist the impulse to grab flowers from the floats as souvenirs.  Just like you, other people would like the opportunity to take selfies with these masterpieces of floral design and fantasy.   If interest shown thus far is any indication, floats from first time establishments and institutions will add grandeur to the 2015 Festival.

If you can’t make the trip up to Baguio and you have to watch proceedings on television, don’t just seat there. Let your hair down, tap you feet, sway your hips, and dance. Let the street dancers guide your moves to the beat of “Tribute to the Cordilleras,” the Panagbenga hymn and the traditional steps and movements of the Bendian dance. 

8. Walk up and down Session Road. It has been said that no trip to Baguio is complete with walking up and down its premier thoroughfare. Beyond the usual sights, you’ll get more for your stroll from March 1-8, 2015. Session Road will not only be in bloom, it will also be a shopper’s paradise. Many merchants who would otherwise have little chance to sell their wares and produce on Session Road will grab the chance to do so. 

9. Go on a foodie trip.  Initially the restaurants got into the Panagbenga spirit by offering flower-inspired dishes on their menus, and, in 1998 the Baguio Association of Restaurants (BAR) hosted a Food Festival as part of Pangabenga.  In recent years, local food establishments have become foodie destinations during Session Road in Bloom. This is your chance to enjoy Alabanza’s longanisa Solibao’s shawarma, and even the dishes only enjoyed by members of Baguio Country Club from March 1-8.

10. Let a thousand flowers bloom in your own yard. If you haven’t coaxed a flower into blooming over the next 5 weeks, buy some seeds, a seedling or a bulb from participating merchants at the Market Encounter and Session Road in Bloom or the Baguio Orchidarium. Get some tips from the gardener or vendor on how to bring it to full bloom by the next season for blossoming.

11. Bring out the cowboy or cowgirl in you on Pony Boys’ Day. On March 7th horseback riding at Wright Park will be extra special as local caballeros showoff their riding and horse handling skills.

12. Play a round at the Flower Tee Golf Tournament. It was first held as to thank the sponsors of the Baguio Festival of Flower and Fashion, (a mini-festival which highlighting one of the most ancient arts of the Cordilleras, ikat weaving), one of the highlights of Panagbenga ’97.  Baguio Country Club will host the 2015 tourney on February 21st.  Contact the Club or the Panagbenga office for more particulars. 

13. Go on a road trip through Baguio’s elementary and secondary schools. With fuel at a low, it might worth seeking out the award-winning pocket gardens throughout the city. You can get a sense of what you’ll see if you drop by Baguio Central School, Josefa Cariño Elementary School and Pines City National High School. All three are within a stone’s throw from each other and City Hall. If you have a mind to see the PMA Alumni Homecoming on February 19th to 22nd, drop by Fort del Pilar Elementary School. It too has proven its landscaping prowess.

Alongside the School Based Landscaping Competition Floral Arrangement Competitions are held. You might also want to check out the Barangay Clean & Green / Landscaping Competition.  For more information on the latter contest, contact the Panagbenga office.

14. Don’t miss out on the Festival’s community-led activities and other events occurring during the duration of the Festival. On February 20th you’ll have your choice of welcoming Chinese New Year with the Chinese Spring Festival or going to Fort del Pilar to watch the annual PMA alumni homecoming.

Visit the 11th International Plastic Modellers Society (IPMS) Baguio Invitationals on February 2 to 8 at SM City Baguio if you are one of the enthusiasts of building models of aircrafts, cars, models and the like.

Several competitions under the community-led events include the National League of Tourism Students Skills Olympics and 6th National Tourism and Hospitality Tourism Convention on February 13 to 14 at the University of Baguio and CAP Convention, Camp John Hay. Another is the 13th Panagbenga Open Scrabble Tournament on February 28 till March 1 at the Baguio Museum. Little Miss Panagbenga 2015 by MB Sky Productions, furthermore, will be held at the Baguio Convention Center on March 1.

If you are one who focuses in fitness, the TCE2 Productions and Rockfounded Films and Entertainment will host the 1st TCE Baguio Zumba Fest Caravan at Melvin Jones on February 20.  At the Baguio Convention Center, the Mr. Panagbenga 2015 Muscle Showdown by the United Body Builders of Northern Luzon Inc. (UBNLI) and the Pacific Extreme Combat: Laban MMA Baguio by LAKAY MMA TAP Team Inc. will be held on February 26 and 28, respectively.

Quite a few concerts will likewise be held at the Melvin Jones Grandstand and Football Grounds. San Miguel Brewery will be having their show on February 27 to March 2. Handog Pasasalamat ng Bombo Radyo at Star FM sa Panagbenga 2015: Free Concert, Free T-shirt will be on March 6, and lastly, the E-Carta Media Productions and Promotions & Seven Great Minds in partnership with 98.7 Z-Radio will be having their event Tambalang Saya sa Panagbenga Year 4 together with the Closing Ceremonies of Panagbenga on March 8.

15. Relish the nip in the air as you watch the fireworks bloom in the night sky on as Panagbenga 2015 twice during the Festival: February 15th and March 8th.   It will be a memory to cherish and relive during the sultry nights of summer.

16. Join Ibaguios in thanksgiving that the Panagbenga Festival has lived up to its reason for being. Conceived to boost the local economy and revive tourism in Baguio City after the devastating July 1990 earthquake, the Festival has become the City’s biggest tourist draw and has consistently boosted earnings in the all tourism and allied industries. Except for the meningococcemia scare in 2005, the local economy has not slipped back to the slump it suffered before 1996.

17. Rejoice with Benguet’s flower growers and merchants as Panagbenga Festival gives them the biggest returns for nurturing their plants. With the help of science, technology and patience farmers coax flowers to bloom in full glory in time for the Festival.  They get a bonanza when they create awe-inspiring flowerscapes on wheels for the Grand Float Parade. Costing in the hundreds of thousands of pesos, these masterpieces of beauty and fantasy require tons of cut flowers to create.

18. Look back to the Festival’s roots and honor those who ensure its success every year. Anniversaries are a great time to look back, and, in the case of the Panagbenga Festival, relish the success it has achieved. With the early history of the Festival having been retold quite frequently in the last two decades, many are familiar with its genesis and the key personalities who have ensured people enjoy their Panagbenga experience. Atty. Damaso Bangaoet, Jr. is credited not only with coming up with the idea for John Hay Poro Point Development Corporation (JPDC) to spearhead a festival to jumpstart the economy of Baguio in 1995.  He went to the harness the support of various sectors of the community (government, education, business, media and civic organizations) not only to create a festival that was uniquely Baguio in color, scope, substance and character but more importantly to forge a community spirit that has been the lifeblood of the Festival for 20 years. To help perpetuate the Festival, the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. was established.

In 2002, upon the request of then Mayor Bernardo Vergara, Bangaoet handed over the management of the Festival to the City Government.  Over the next four years, three mayors would each leave their mark on the Festival.  Vergara made the most lasting imprint by making the Festival a month-long activity in 2003.  Mayor Braulio Yaranon’s term brought the most memorable: holding the longest Pangabenga with two parallel festivals in 2004.  Mayor Reinaldo Bautista formally returned of the management of the Festival to the BFFFI in 2006. 

After serving as chairman of the Panagbenga Executive Committee for Panagbenga 2007, Bangaoet passed on the reins of power to Hotel and Restaurant Association (HRAB) founder, Anthony de Leon. Since then, de Leon has shared chairmanship of the committee with Frederico Alquiros, who has been on the Executive Committee since 2008.

19. Pay tribute to the often unseen underappreciated but vitally important people who make the Panagbenga Festival possible. After the BCDA gave the green light for the Festival in 1995, JPDC employees took on the challenge of transforming the idea into reality. Aside from tackling their usual responsibilities, days leading up to February 1995 were spent harnessing the support of myriad sectors of the community and coordinating with various agencies. Nights were spent sewing costumes, making props, building traffic barriers, and dealing with other small but essential matters.  In the process, they set the standard of commitment and the order of work that has guided those who followed in their footsteps. They also planted the seeds of goodwill and commitment that provided the Festival will sponsors whose support have stood the test of time.  Today, the BFFFI Secretariat under the leadership of Evangeline Payno carries on this tradition of commitment and selfless service that started with Eric Picart acting the Festival’s field general during the JPDC years and continued by Dangal  Guevara  as Chief of Staff during the first BFFFI years.

If you bump into any of them at any of the events a pat on the back, buss on the cheek or a handshake in thanks will mean a lot.  You’ll recognize them by the ID’s that hang from their necks. 

20. Finally, don’t fret about the math in reckoning the festival’s 20th anniversary. As the 18th and 19th reasons for celebrating twenty years of Panagbenga establishes, the Panagbenga Spirit was alive and well long before the inaugural festival in 1996.

So, it’s only fitting that since this is the first Panagbenga Festival without its founding father, Atty. Damaso Bangaoet, Jr. his words end this piece. And, as he said in the afterword of the book he had published, Panagbenga: The Birth of a Tradition, “Traditions are born out of the people acting on shared beliefs and accepted conventions. Traditions live on in much the same way… in the words, acts and beliefs of a people. This is the reason why the Baguio Flower Festival was envisioned as an activity that would grow out of a community coming together to have fun while in pursuit of its noble goals; for by springing from community involvement and participation, it (the Panagbenga Festival) would live on, as traditions do… in the hearts and minds of the people.”

In the years to come, as we celebrate Panagbenga, the community spirit that gave it life will bloom… in a fashion as timeless as the season of blooming itself.  And, that is the element that will give the Festival its foothold on perpetuity.”

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