The celebration of flowers through this year’s Panagbenga has returned with a loud bang after three year of hiatus to low-key festivities, this time marked with well-attended and viewed grand street dancing and float parades on Feb. 25 and 26 that were truly a renaissance of wonder and beauty.
A record-breaking 32 participants have joined the grand street dance and cultural presentation competitions, topped by the Baguio Central School in the drum and lyre category with four competitors; Saeng Ya Kasay Cultural Ensemble of the University of the Cordilleras for the cultural dance category with 17 competitors; and St. Louis University for the festival street dance category with 11 competitors.
Other winners in the drum and lyre were Tuba Central School as first runner-up, Josefa Cariño ES as second runner-up and Lucban ES as fourth runner-up.
Cultural dance: first runner-up – Uggayam Turrayan Cultural Group, San Vicente, Baguio City and second runner-up – Labban di E-lagan Indigenous Peoples Organization, Laban, Sabangan, Mountain Province; and
Festival street dance winners: first runner-up – Tribo Rizal, Rizal National High School of Arts and Trade, Rizal, Kalinga and second runner-up – University of the Cordilleras.
For the grand float parades with 24 competing and two non-competing participants, winners in the small float category are champion – Zaparita Garden; first runner-up – Mang Inasal; and second runner-up – Province of Benguet, while winners in the big float category are champion – Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza); first runner-up – Avilon Zoo; and second runner-up – Sitel Philippines.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong said “at the heart of each float lies a stunning array of meaningful flowers carefully selected and arranged to convey a message of joy, harmony, and unity.”
“The flowers in the floats are not just ornamental decorations, but are symbols of our connection with nature, to our environment, our reverence for its beauty, and our commitment to preserve and protect it for our future generation. They remind us that even in the midst of a rapidly changing world we can find solace and inspiration in the simple pleasures of life. It is a testament of our collective identity, statement of our resolve to stay true to our roots while embracing the future. It is a call to unite to celebrate and to create memories that will last a lifetime,” Magalong said.
Baguio Flower Festival Foundation Inc. chair for life Atty. Mauricio Domogan said the city has shown how it was able to bounce back from the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the unexpected number of participants in the festival highlights from outside Baguio.
BFFI executive committee co-chair Anthony de Leon appreciated those who came up to the city to witness the comeback of the Panagbenga.
He also acknowledged the role of the Baguio City Police Office Traffic Management Unit and the volunteers in the management of peace and order, saying it is the first time after handling the major festival events for many years that there was a much more orderly and controlled parade route.
De Leon clarified, on the other hand, the issue about two participants in the grand float parade that were not part of the registered float line-up.
Upon review, he said two floats joined on the day of the parade at the assembly area, but were later allowed to participate after meeting the standards in the float composition and presentation.
De Leon said it is not true that the owners of the two floats paid the organizers for its participation contrary to the rumor, since joining the float parade is free and inclusive, as long as the float meets the requirements of the BFFFI.
BFFFI chief of staff Evangeline Payno said organizers spent around P6 million for the prizes for the winners, subsidies to all the participants for the street dance competition, and consolation prizes for the non-winners.
With the expected fewer sponsors for the 27th edition of the festival, de Leon said part of the revenues were coming from the Session Road in Bloom and Market Encounter, which also allotted spaces for civic and missionary groups as part of its usual efforts of keeping the community spirit of the festival. – Hanna C. Lacsamana