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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.
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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