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February 21, 2014

Power to the Flowers: Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival

For the City of Pines, February is a month of celebration as it is also the time when the famous Panagbenga Festival is held. The Flower Festival of the Philippines puts Baguio City in its entirety in full bloom just in time for the celebration of love, Valentine’s Day.

Not only does the Panagbenga Festival celebrate the beauty of the flora of the country, but it also helps boost tourism in the City of Pines. Every year, hundreds of tourists flock to see the amazing display of flower floats and watch in amazement as Baguio City’s Session Road comes alive with blooms.

But how did this glorious festival become part of the fabric of Philippine history?

According to local historians, the Panagbenga Festival originated as a celebration of the blooming of flowers after their holiday season of rest. It was pretty much like a celebration to welcome spring, the Philippine version of it that is. Literally, it means “a season of blooming” hence the colorful parade of floats bedecked in flowers.

Bona Elisa Resureccion writes:

It all began when lawyer, Damaso E. Bangaoet, Jr., John Hay Poro Point Development Corporation (JPDC) Managing Director for Camp John Hay, presented to the Board of Directors of JPDC the idea of their spearheading the holding of a flower festival in Baguio City. The Board, then led by the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) Chairman Victor A. Lim and JPDC President Rogelio L. Singson, approved the project immediately. It was also decided that the Festival be held every February.

In October 1995, the Baguio Flower Festival acquired a face. Its official logo was chosen from entries to the Annual Camp John Hay Art Contest.

Shortly thereafter, a Festival Hymn was composed by Professor Macario Fronda of Saint Louis University. To this music was added the rhythm and movements of the Bendian Dance, an Ibaloi dance of celebration.

But it only transformed into its present iteration as the Panagbenga Festival in 1997.  Resureccion narrates:

Before 1996 would close, the Second Baguio Flower Festival was already in the works. Drawing from their experiences from the first festival, the BFF Secretariat set out to make the festival “bigger and better.” It began with the Festival acquiring a local name: Panagbenga, which comes from the Kankanaey term for “a season for blossoming, a time for flowering.” The name was suggested by Ike Picpican, an archivist and curator of the Saint Louis University Museum.

Again, we at Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJH DevCo) were there. For in 1997, “Camp John Hay had been transferred into private hands and JPDC was joined as co-sponsor of the Festival by Baguio’s newest corporate citizen: the Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo). Then officer-in-charge, Frederico S. Alquiros, served as co-chairman of the 1997 Festival.” (Resureccion)

From here on, new activities that are now part of the annual festival were started. The Session Road in Bloom began its life. Outdoor cafes, flower carts, and other celebrations of flowers filled the road that is closed to vehicular traffic for more than week. Activities such as the Floral Parade, Search for the Festival Queen, and others were also institutionalized in this festival. The community was also asked to join in as an activity called “Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom” was held. Here, volunteers are asked to put into canvas the wonders of the flowers of Baguio. These works of art would then be displayed in buildings found along the city’s main thoroughfares.

Before this year’s festival rolls to a close, I invite you to visit our city and experience for yourselves how the City of Pines really comes into full bloom in the month of the Panagbenga Festival.

If you’re wondering what’s there to do in the city for the festival, here is a list of activities that you can take part of:

panagbenga poster 2014



Photo credit: Pinastival, Traveler’s Journal

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One Comment on “Power to the Flowers: Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival”

  • Nancy Gallego says February 24, 2014 at 6:37 am

    Keep up the good work and mabuhay Pilipinas, Baguio!



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