Travel in the Philippines

The History of Baguio Festival
By:Anjus Chiedozie

The Baguio Festival, better known as the Panagbenga Festival, is celebrated yearly throughout the month of February. The event is held in Baguio, which is referred to as the summer capital of the Philippines because of its comparatively mild climate and is famous for its flowers.

Background
On July 16, 1990, a massive earthquake hit the Cordillera Administrative Region--where Baguio is located--as well as the central part of Luzon, the Philippines' largest island. Baguio was among the hardest hit areas, with as many as 1,000 people killed and about 800 people injured. As rebuilding commenced to make the city a premier tourist location, some people thought of a celebration to symbolize Baguio's recovery.

Founding
In 1995, Damaso Bangaoet Jr. presented his idea of a flower festival before the John Hay Poro Point Development Corp. (JPDC) board of directors. The board, which was led by Chairman Victor A. Lim and President Rogelio L. Singson, immediately approved the idea. More than a symbol of recovery, the Panagbenga Festival was also designed to commemorate the flowers that grow in abundance in the city.

Development
By the end of 1995, the JPDC was able to put together an advisory group of flower enthusiasts and adopt an official logo from a schoolchildren art contest. The next year, the term "Panagbenga" was officially adopted to name the event. It is of Kankana-ey origin and it means "a season of blooming."

Description
The Panagbenga Festival is held in February because the month is generally chilly and dry in the region. Such a climate is deemed ideal for the outdoor activities that compose the festival. Panagbenga kicks off with the “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom” activity, which involves participants painting flowers on canvases and having them displayed on the walls of buildings along Baguio's main roads. The festival also includes a golf tournament, dance and band competitions, floral floats, and flea and food markets.

Reception
Some residents have complained that the Panagbenga Festival exploits the region's culture for financial gain. In a 2003 article published in the Filipino newspaper "Bulalat," for instance, a culture group official decried participants performing Cordilleran dances to modern songs, possibly to make the festival more palatable to tourists. The Panagbenga Festival, however, continues to be held yearly in celebration of Baguio's culture, beauty and resilience.






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