COMMUNITY SPIRIT. Participants take part in Baguio City's month-long "Panagbenga 2023," which opened on Wednesday (Feb. 1, 2023). The festival was originally conceptualized to help lift the city’s economy after the 1990 earthquake. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)

BAGUIO CITY – The city's most famous month-long festival, Panagbenga, opened on Wednesday to a bevy of community-led activities, including two opening grand parades participated in by students and groups both from the public and private sectors.

The Panagbenga was started in 1996 to help boost the spirits of residents as they get back on their feet after a major earthquake from a few years back. Twenty-seven years later, the city arrives at another flash point as the festival once again helps the city recover from the global coronavirus pandemic.

“Panagbenga was born because time there was a need for the city to recover from the devastation of the 1990 earthquake and there was a need to have activities to stir the economy and create jobs to help the city recover,” said Andrew Pinero, media committee head and guest relations manager of the Baguio Country Club (BCC), on the sidelines of the opening program of the Baguio Flower Festival.

“It is the same today. We were hit by the coronavirus disease 2019 and there is a need to recover. Panagbenga remains true to its objective to help the economy of the city so that employment will be created,” he added, describing how the pandemic drove away tourists and shut down businesses here.

Among this year's activities are the landscape competitions in villages and schools, the fluvial parade at the Burnham Lake, the kite-flying event, Little Miss Panagbenga, and various outreach activities of civic action groups.

“Let us not forget the 'Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom' activity where families and friends get to paint their design and paraded during the grand street dancing parade," said Pinero.

The canvasses are hung along the stretch of Session Road and Harrison Road until the closing of this year’s Panagbenga on the first Sunday of March, or the 5th of March.

“While there are residents who opt to stay home and watch the parades on television or the Facebook page, they wait to see what it offers, the colors and the designs of the floats and the costumes of the participants,” Pinero said.

“Many of us here in Baguio, when we hear the Panagbenga hymn starts to be played by marching bands, bring back good memories of how we all worked for Baguio to attain the glory we all enjoy now and the benefits we all reap from the festival that creates a domino effect to the livelihood of the smallest business owner to the big establishments,” he added.

Panagbenga, named after the kankanaey word meaning “blossoming of flowers,” was conceptualized by a group of people then connected to the John Hay Poro Point Development Corporation (JPDC) led by Damaso Bangaoet, patterned from the Parade of Roses of Pasadena in California.

It used to be held for a week with small activities at the football field in Camp John Hay which residents themselves take time to visit for the items sold at the market encounter, eat outdoors and simply relax.

It later evolved to become a two-week activity, before becoming the current month-long celebration.

The event is currently handled by the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation with members from different sectors of the city. (PNA)