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5 things you should know about Baguio’s Panagbenga Festival

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Panagbenga Festival: A season of blossoming

Panagbenga Festival makes all roads lead to Baguio City as it is that time of the year where fragrant flowers bloom all around the City. The festival kicks off its opening parade welcoming everyone to this festive celebration of flowers and culture! The festivities start with a Drum and Lyre Street Dance Elimination Competition for the Elementary School Level and the finalists will compete again the Grand Street parade, usually on the last Saturday of February.

Panagbenga has now become one of the most sought-after festivals in the country, especially after the feast of Sto. Niño (Dinagyang, Sinulog, Ati-Atihan, and the like) in different parts of the country – promoting the beauty of Baguio serving as a symbol of recovery after the devastating 1990 earthquake.

Panagbenga Festival 2016 Kickoff Parade (Photo by Lora Donne Cusi)

Panagbenga 2016 Kickoff Parade (Photo by Lora Donne Cusi)

So here you go, here are some of the facts about Baguio’s Panagbenga Festival you should know!

1.) It’s /pa-NAG-buh-nga/ — not /pa-nag-BEH-nga/, not also /pa-nag-BENG-ga/

If you’re a local of Baguio, you would normally know how to pronounce it. It is the number 1 misconception about Panagbenga – the word’s pronunciation. Well, of course, as a responsible traveler/tourist, it is also a must that you know how to pronounce words in their proper form and accent, right? So again, it is /pa-NAG-buh-nga/. It is because it is of Kankana-ey origin that makes the pronunciation distinct. In this way, too, you will also learn the proper way of saying it and you may also teach your other friends when they visit the City for the festival. Alright!

2. Panagbenga means ‘season of blossoming, time for flowering.’

SM City Baguio's Dragon-inspired Floral Float, Panagbenga Festival 2012 (Photo by www.leapflysoar.com)

SM City Baguio’s Dragon-inspired Floral Float, Panagbenga 2012 (Photo from www.leapflysoar.com)

Popularly known as the “Summer Capital of the Philippines,” Baguio City is also known as “Flower Garden City of the North.” And not widely known to many, too, Panagbenga is the Kankana-ey term for ‘season of blossoming.’ This festival was conceptualized way back in 1995 by Atty. Damaso Bangaoet and his team to bring back Baguio’s reputation as one of the country’s premier vacation spots and to move forward and to boost its tourism again from the Luzon Killer Earthquake in 1990.

This festival was also simply first known as the ‘Baguio Flower Festival’ in 1995 until it was suggested and renamed ‘Panagbenga‘ in 1997 by archivist and Saint Louis University Museum Curator, Mr. Ike Picpican. The primary theme of this festival is to pay homage to the bountiful flowers that bloom and give Baguio that vibrant glow, making it one of the popular destinations in the country, especially during summer.

The first staging of the festival was in October (1995) until it was moved and scheduled in February because it is the perfect time to go to Baguio after that long Christmas Holiday and to prepare for the Holy Week after the festivities. The festival is also akin, and often related, to the also-famous Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.

3. Panagbenga Festival’s Official Hymn is entitled “Tribute to the Cordillerans.”

With Mr. Macario Fronda, Composer of Panagbenga Festival's "Tribute to the Cordillerans" Theme Song (Look for me!)

With Mr. Macario Fronda, Composer of Panagbenga Festival’s “Tribute to the Cordillerans” Theme Song (Look for me!)

The hymn is composed by the late Dean Macario Fronda to pay tribute to the Cordillerans who gave (and still gives) their effort in making the Cordilleras thrive amidst adversity and change. It is the official theme song of the festivities to retain its solemnity and for all the people to know that we honor the Cordillerans who gives their time and effort in order to make this festival happen. This hymn was also added to the Bendian dance, an Ibaloi dance for celebration, especially for important events such as this. It is also a MUST that every Band Contingent (whether local or from guest bands from the lowlands) should include the “Tribute Hymn” in their performance repertoire.

4. Participants to the festival use tons and tons of flowers yearly!

The City Government of Baguio Participating Floral Float for Panagbenga Festival 2015.

The City Government of Baguio Participating Floral Float, 2015.

A huge amount of flowers is to be used mainly during the Grand Street and Floral Float Parades. (Some flowers are also used in other month-long competitions like landscape competition, Barangay beautification, and the like.) The parades, too, are the main highlights of the festivities. Different contingents show their artistry whether in music, dancing, and cultural performances. It is also where you see the participants’ ingenuity in creating pieces of art just by using different kinds of flowers and other flora.

Fun fact: As part of the contingent’s criteria for judging, they should have at least 95% of natural flowers as part of their paraded floral floats. The remaining 5% can be used for other materials other than natural flowers.

5. Panagbenga Festival draws approximately 1 million tourists every year.

Sea of People awaiting the different contingents of the Floral Float Parade, 2015.

Sea of People awaiting the different contingents of the Floral Float Parade, 2015.

Being one of the major festivals in the country and also being one of the major events of the City, Panagbenga draws a handful of tourists every year, boosting the City’s economy and its Tourism Sector. Occupancy rates play at around 96% – 100% making the City crowded too during the month of February.

The only setback seen here are traffic jams in major streets, especially during the major festival highlights – the Grand Street Dance and Grand Floral Float Parades, together with the ‘Session Road in Bloom’ which culminates after the Float Parade and spans for a week leading to the festival’s closing ceremonies after.

Many people, especially tourists, occupy the streets of Baguio just to witness this one-of-a-kind festival in Northern Luzon every February.

Happy Panagbenga Festival! See you on the streets of Baguio!

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