FLORAL SHOW. The float of the city of Baguio was the first to parade during the highlight event of Panagbenga 2023 on Sunday (Feb. 26, 2023). The parade traversed Session Road and ended at the Melvin Jones football field. (PNA photo by Joey Razon)

BAGUIO CITY – An estimated 48,000 to 50,000 people converged here on Sunday to witness Cordillera’s unique heritage displayed through Panagbenga Festival 2023, particularly the grand float parade which is the highlight of the famous event.

The crowd estimate was provided by the Baguio City Police Office, according to a statement of Evangeline Payno, chief of staff of the Baguio Flower Festival organizing committee.

The grand float parade that showcased thousands of fresh flowers made the city bloom once more after the pandemic, honoring the beauty and bounty of the Cordillera Region.

“Panagbenga is a celebration of our culture, our community and our natural surroundings,” Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said in his speech at the grandstand here after the parade.

The floats, which conveyed a message of joy, harmony and unity, were carefully and skillfully created by local craftsmen and artisans who used mostly fresh and real potted plants grown by farmers from Benguet and Baguio.

The entire grand float parade, Magalong said, was more than just a stunning display of Cordillera’s history, but a testament to its people's collective identity and resolve to stay grounded in their roots while embracing the future.

He said that in the midst of a rapidly changing world, people from the region still find solace and inspiration in the simple pleasures of life.

“The flowers in the float are not just ornamental decorations, they are symbols of our connection to nature, to our environment, our reverence for its beauty, and our commitment to preserve and protect him for our future generation,” Magalong said.

Thrilled to see Baguio City come alive after the pandemic, he said the vibrant colors and energy of this year's celebration also served as a call for everyone to unite.

The mayor applauded the unity displayed by the residents here in ensuring the success of Panagbenga and their boundless potential.

Col. Ronald Valdez Gayo, Police Regional Office-Cordillera deputy director for operations and commander of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Task Force for Panagbenga 2023, said the crowd estimate was at about 50,000 as of 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Despite the large number, Gayo said no untoward incident was reported.

The Baguio PNP deployed nearly 2,000 police officers to ensure peace and order for the duration of the event.

Meanwhile, nine groups for the small category and eight for the big category, including private firms, joined the float competition.

Payno said the winners will be announced on March 1.

The city government's eagle-themed float was the first to parade down Session Road onward to Harrison Road and straight toward the Melvin Jones football field.

It was followed by the Department of Tourism's garden-themed float and Baguio Country Club's Aladdin-themed float.

There was also a non-competing float, Jeepito, touted as the world's smallest Philippine jeepney at 2,336 millimeters long and 4 1/2 feet in height.

Its owner, Ronald Carlton Papa Tan, built the vehicle in 2015, powered by a three-cylinder engine usually used by multicabs, for tourism purposes.

The flowers used in the floats included roses, alstroemeria, chrysanthemums, Malaysian mums, anthuriums, orchids, carnations and stargazers.

The theme of this year's Panagbenga Festival, "A Renaissance of Wonder and Beauty", highlights the city's journey toward tourism revival, sustainable and responsible tourism development, and entry into the new normal after the pandemic. (PNA)