FESTIVALS AS ECONOMIC DRIVER IN THIS POST-PANDEMIC PERIOD
The resumption of full-blown festivals in the provinces and towns in the Cordillera, including the Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga, one of the country’s best festivals, not only revives the tourism sector, but also help propel local economies impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In this highland region, Benguet has set the direction for the resumption of full-blown festivals when it held successfully the Adivay Festival in November 2022 which was also a celebration of its founding anniversary.
Earlier this month, Apayao held its Say-am Festival that also coincided with its 28th founding anniversary. This year’s holding of a festival has caught public attention with the well-adorned floats featuring the best products and attributes of the different towns, becoming a benchmark for the country on how a festival can showcase a town’s unique character.
Kalinga and its proud people caught world attention when they set two Guinness World records for the largest gong ensemble of 3,440 male gong dan-cers and the largest clay pot dance with 4,681 female dancers prancing gracefully with pots on their heads in celebration of the Bodong Festival. It was also a foundation day celebration.
But Baguio may just shine the brightest lights of the festivals galore. The grand street dance and parade of flower-bedecked floats are back and expectedly, with the burst of beauty, the expression of which was suppressed in the period of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
These two weekend parades have always been the highlights of the Panagbenga that have drawn millions of tourists, and millions too in revenues. Its spectacular celebrations have put the Cordillera on the world map of festivals.
Next month, Abra will resume its Kawayan Festival while Mountain Province will celebrate the Lang-ay Festival in April. Ifugao is set to resume the Gotad ad Ifugao in June.
The holding of festivals undeniably brings economic benefits to many sectors, as it stimulates tourism and other businesses in communities. Neighboring areas benefit from the spillover of domestic and foreign visitors.
The economic benefits of festivals can be quantified as it can be estimated from the average expenditure of each tourist and occupancy rate of accommodation facilities in the localities.
More importantly, festivals foster community pride and strengthen relationships among community folks such as the Kalinga experience where villagers from conflicting ethnic groups set aside their differences to unite for a common good during the historic events that led to two Guinness records.
This region that is home to indi- genous peoples with diverse culture and heritage also greatly benefits from the annual conduct of culture-bound festivities, as it helps in the preservation of the culture and tradition amid strong influences from the outside world.
But the holding of festivals especially in the urban centers has its price – horrendous traffic, water shortage, garbage woes, and increase in petty crimes.
With “revenge tourism” still being experienced in Baguio in this post-pandemic, the holding of full-blown Panagbenga poses great challenges among the organizers, city government, and the Baguio City Police Office.
We believe in the capabilities of concerned quarters, especially the festival organizers that this year’s Panagbenga will be held successfully and any innovations in terms of managing a festival of such magnitude will be again a possible template for other organizers to follow in the years to come.
With community support, the resumption of festivals will undoubtedly bring peace and prosperity in this highland region as people start to move forward in this post-pandemic period.