July 17, 2024

Baguio, known as the summer capital of the Philippines, is a perfect place for a vacation due to its chilly atmosphere. As an outsider living an hour ride away from Baguio, I never had much opportunity to visit the city because I was a sheltered kid. When I was deployed as an journalism intern in Baguio, I finally had the chance to look at it in its full bloom. When I was designated at my work station, it was highlights of the Panagbenga Festival. Staying in Baguio, a creative city, is a dream come true for a writer and photojournalist like me that wishes to hone my craft, look for new inspirations, and rest and rebuild. As I walked around the streets of the city, I could see that Baguio’s charm and selling point is its rich and diverse culture and the novelty of the annual Flower Festival celebration.
For the locals, Panagbenga is their way of introducing and enriching their cultural heritage. It is also a great branding for tourism because it is celebrated in February, the month of love and the perfect season after Christmas and New Year. To witness it firsthand is undoubtedly a memorable experience; the festive atmosphere, the showcase of unique ethnic art forms, and the grandiose of exquisitely decorated flowers speak so much of what is it like to live here. On the surface, these things sure are a treat for my five senses: the cool air brushing past my skin, the beautiful flora blossoming around the city, the music of street performers serenading my ears, the taste of local delicacies and strawberry-filled treats, and lastly, the smell of fresh air.
What I really appreciate about Baguio is the fact that the Panagbenga event is more than what it looks like. Seeing the street performances and floral float parades conveys how much they value their roots that they proudly share it to other people. Seeing different communities being represented in the parades symbolize that flowers are not just beautiful decorations. Like Valentine’s Day, I think that they hold a symbolical meaning. As for me, I could see that the flowers represent each thriving community in Baguio. Its weather permits for various flowers to bloom, making Baguio a place that cultivates diversity.
Indeed, Baguio is a creative city, it is a place that continues to enrich its traditions while embracing progress – warmly welcoming outsiders and banking on their unique traits as a people. However, on the other hand, I understand that it is also a marketing strategy. Although such displays are a great way of presenting their culture, it is also commodified and risks the idea of their culture being diminished to mere physical attributes. In all the floats I’ve observed, I noticed that most of them are forms of business advertisement. Of course, we could interpret it as taking part in the celebration, but we cannot deny that it’s also an economic boost for local businesses.
There is no issue with earning profits as it is needed for development projects. Economically speaking, tourism is a great place to generate revenues. It is only that I would not want Baguio to be only seen as a cool place filled with flowers and strawberries where you could brand tattoos and ethnic fabrics as just an aesthetic design. It’s a great image on the surface and it certainly is a very interesting experience to somehow be a part of their culture. However, I hope that these would not result to fake authenticity by selling knock-off products instead of supporting local weavers and artisans. The people loves the place because of its genuineness and potential for progress that is why if there is one thing that I want to be preserves, it is their unique identity that is not merely appreciated for superficial characteristics but a place of blooming where they could grow as a community without wilting their true colors.