Issue of February 19, 2017

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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Panagbenga 2017, Siberia 2017

Conceptualized by lawyer and marketing man, the late and much lamented Dammy Bangaoet Jr., Panagbenga was first broached by Benguet to the municipal government of La Trinidad, where Dammy was residing at the time.

Aware that La Trinidad was already known as the Salad Bowl of the Philippines and was fast gaining a reputation as the Strawberry Capital of the North, municipal officials found no need for one more title to its fame, even if the town was also in the business of flowers – roses mostly, but none of the other varieties.

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Upon the suggestion of family and close friends, Dammy brought his Panagbenga to the city, then badly needing to lure tourists in the off season and not just during the short Christmas break and in summer, Baguio officials know a good idea when they see one, and after a series of meetings, an arrangement was arrived at with Dammy and the city in partnership to hold the festivities in February, with the cold weather still holding, even as the rains were on “vacation” until June or July.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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Let me share with you a little secret on how Dammy came up with his Panagbenga.

When Eric de Guia – Kidlat Tahimik to you – was chair of the UP student union (this was in 1960) he and his Upsilon brods, including Dammy, decided to hold a flower festival inside the UP campus that had the support of the different disciplines and departments.

It was, to say the least, a modest success, with students from other universities coming over to join in the fun. I remember seeing a group of PWU coeds still in uniform mingling with the large crowd, also from nearby Maryknoll and Ateneo making lots of noise and generally enjoying themselves.

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Unlike the Lantern parade which usually ended up in rumbles among the different fraternities, the UP floral festival was peaceful, with Sigma Rhoans, Alpha Phi Betans, Beta Sigmas, Beta Epsilons, Tau Alphans, and other frats on moratorium, making sure nothing untoward would happen.

Anyway, I think Dammy patterned Panagbenga after the UP festival, nothing wrong really, since Dammy was part of the Upsilonian team that conceived the UP flower fest.

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Like most other successful endeavors, the Panagbenga is not all flowers and roses (pardon the small pun), there is ugly talk that some officials made and are still making money out of it.

When Raul Yaranon was elected mayor in a stunning upset during the 2004 local elections, he wondered why only a couple of million was the city’s share in the income earned, when as per his calculations, P20,000,000 would be more like it.

I do not know why Mang Raul failed to follow up his suspicions, but to this day, people still talk about this and city official with large bank accounts, and wondering if the Panagbenga is the goose that lays a golden egg every February.

Tourists care not about political squabbles, and would rather enjoy the show and smell the flowers.

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The cold winds from Siberia have come to visit, as residents shiver from the cold, but again it is another reason why visitors come up to our fair city at this time.

It isn’t really freezing, not like in the North Eastern United States where the snow is knee high or even higher, but bonnets, mufflers, thick jackets, and blankets can’t seem to keep the cold out, and government employees have reason to call in sick. Who wants to get out of bed in the early cold morning?

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Gina Lopez, like most women who suddenly come to power, is running berserk. The thing about women is that once their minds is set, there is no changing it, not for a compelling reason or whatever.

And people are confused. Is choosing the mines on the whim of one woman good for the country?

Is Gina a genuine reformist, or just a spoiled daughter of a rich family imposing her will without actually considering the possible effects upon the economy?

Is there genuine concern, or a hidden agenda?

Anyway we are in a new millennium, and it seems leaders with mind disorders are now running the world – Trump, Kim Jong Un, De Lima, and Aguirre – hey get this – when the lawyer of the government moves to have a case dismissed against an accused with billions of personal funds, is that suspicious or what?

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It won’t be easy for gambling operators to move over to small time lottery (STL), the bond required is P25 million. Still, the line of applicants is quite long, which just goes to show you that gambling is a big business.

But what happens to the intelligensia and 15-30? I suspect tuloy-tuloy pa rin. No PNP big shot will want to retire poor. That is the new motto – become a general, and retire rich.

Show me a poor general and I will eat this column – or a hard up cardiologist (except Dr. Manalo, and my cousin Louie Claridad inherited and married to, please not doctors fees in six figures, she can’t count that high).

Happy Panagbenga.

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