January 31, 2023

Its Panagbenga time. A quarter of a century marriage between the city and its people. Baguio, it’s your silver anniversary. What has happened and what will still happen in its evolution will be a challenge. In the meantime, it’s time to meet one of the pioneers.
The Baguio Flower Festival was renamed Panagbenga” in 1997, a Kankana-eyterm which means “a season of blooming, a time for flowering” suggested by Isikias “Ike” Picpican of the Kankana-ey, Ibaloy, and Kalanguya bloodline. At the time, he was the curator of Saint Louis Museum of Arts and Cultures and the Adviser of SLU Cordillera Cultural Performing Group (CCPG). The SLU Museum and SLU Center for Culture and the Arts, then was headed by Bing Bangaoet, were neighbors. Hence, there were interactions between the two cultural entities.
“Towards the midterm of 1995, the late Atty. Damaso Bangaoet, then managing director of the John Hay Poro Development Corporation, who proposed the idea of a Baguio Flower Festival to be held in February 1995 dropped by the SLU Museum contemplating to come out with a new name for the festival with a Cordillera term,” narrated Picpican, who is also a culture bearer presently affiliated with the Baguio Museum and a barangay kagawad of Sto Tomas Central. He heads the committee on land and environment, and tourism. The proposal to hold the Baguio Flower Festival was to feature the famous blossoms of Baguio and to help in the recover of Baguio from the earthquake of 1990.
“I gave the late Atty. Bangaoet several terms in Kankana-ey, Ibaloy, Mountain Province, Kalinga, and Ifugao. He was going to present the terms to the board with corresponding write-ups and explanations. I told him that Panagbenga is a general term applied to the blooming of flowers and trees. Itwas appropriate with the blooming of a new cultural idea or festival in Baguio,” Picpican said.
The festival eventually blossomed into something bigger and cascaded into the barangay level and contributed to the blossoming of other municipal festivals.
According to a write up, “An official logo was selected from submissions coming from students of all levels at the Camp John Hay Art Contest. Trisha Tabangin won with a spray of wild sunflowers design. The festival hymn was composed by the late SLU Professor Macario Fronda. The main events were street dancing and floral float parade competitions, market encounter, Session Road in Bloom and the barangay beautification contests.” Eventually, other activities were added to the festival which started with only ten days. Then expanded to two weeks and is now a month-long event in February.
Picpican was the curator and archivist of the SLU Museum of Arts and Culture and the CICM Archives for 26 years starting in 1990 at the beginning of the Panagbenga. He was also adviser to the SLU Cordillera Cultural Performing Group who participated in the street dancing parades. The CCPG is a university-wide organization organized for the preservation, promotion and development of living tradition component of intangible heritage thru ethnic songs and dances. The performances were well researched, rehearsed, and re-lived through cultural presentations and live performances. These intangible performances complimented the tangible displays of the museum.
As instructor, researcher, and coordinator, Picpican has co-authored several published journals and monographs on the Benguet mummies, folk medicines, worships and rituals among the Benguet Igorots. He was in demand as a resource speaker to many conferences and seminars that dealt on museum artifacts, Benguet traditional songs and dances, indigenous medicines and healing rituals, culture and faith, Cordillera games, tangible and intangible heritage of the Cordillera, gong traditions, Cordillera dress and adornments, festivals, cultural awareness, sensitivity and behaviors, preservation of heritage, diversity, customs and traditions, instruments, music and dance and Ifugao chants. The man’s curriculum vitae is a mile long. He is truly an expert in indigenous knowledge. Simple and humble in his ways.
Not to mention awards in leadership and cultural journalism. This is the highest awards bestowed by the province of Benguet during its 104th anniversary. He served SLU for the 35 years. He is the author of two books, published and unpublished. He was the president of the North Luzon Association of Museums and a representative to the National Committee on Museums of the NCCA.
As a kagawad, he now works on projects relative to tourism like eco-walk, agri-tourism and celebrated the Sto Tomas barangay fiesta yesterday, March 7. Wife Bonita complements his works and projects. They have one son Kristopher who is married to Hannah. The couple is blessed with two apos, Samuel Kristopher and Sadiri Kepha.
I can still hear the reverberations of the SLU Band playing the Panagbenga hymn during parades under the baton of the late Dean Macario Fronda. It’s also fun to reminisce the countless times we escorted our daughter as she paraded under the hot sun with the SPED Elementary School, the Baguio City National High School and thru her college years. Yes, there are plenty of memories. Bloom Panagbenga. Bloom with a silver lining. Satiate us with good memories. The children and pioneers have now grown older. Happy Panagbenga! (contributed photos).