June 21, 2024

Two years have passed since we last witnessed the staging of the Flower Festival. Its much-anticipated comeback symbolizes the city’s recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Panagbenga will always have a special place in my heart. As I reminisce on the past staging, I remember waking early in the morning to find the perfect spot to catch a glimpse of the parades. The best spots were always on the ledges directly facing the National Bureau of Investigation Building and Casa Vallejo. We usually were unlucky as some watchers were too excited that they had to set up tents and spend the night in these areas. This slight misfortune didn’t stop us from sharing the joy of the parade participants as we watched the ocean of colors and exciting performances along the roads. The experience is made even better as we munched through the variety of foods we packed and bought from the hardworking vendors who passed by.
People would always anticipate the street dancing and float parades. The musical performances would fill the streets with energetic tunes – encapsulating the vibrancy of the city’s people and history. The performances of the street dancers are exhilarating to watch as creativity and culture blossomed are highlight in each presentation. My favorite is the grand reveal of the gigantic flower-filled floats. Each float has a particular theme, from mythical creatures to celebrities who made the experience more stimulating.
In my elementary years, I was fortunate to join my school’s drum and lyre. Since then, I was never denied an opportunity to represent my school and give people a show to look forward to. It would take us months to practice and master our craft, but every bit of hard work paid off. When the day of the parade comes, we would gather at school as early as 4 a.m. and carry our instruments and props to the Panagbenga Park. We would march along South Drive, downwards along Session Road, make our way through Magsaysay Road and Harrison Road until we reach the parade’s final stretch at the Baguio Athletic Bowl. Our knees would tremble from standing for hours under the scorching sun, but the exhaustion is all worth it. For me, becoming part of the festival meant rendering my service and giving back to my home for providing me a space to create the most memorable moments of my life.
The memories from my childhood are incomparable to the experiences I have with the festival now. Since the pandemic started, I witnessed much change and innovation on how the festival is staged. The once crowded areas are now replaced with small groups of people wearing masks and abiding by strict health protocols. Despite the significant changes, one similarity remains – the undying showcase of history, hope, and resiliency from the people of this great city.
Since its conception more than two decades ago, Panagbenga represents the resilience and hope of the people who recovered from the 1990 Luzon earthquake. Today, we witness history in the making as the spirit of Panagbenga is realized once more.
For two years, our beloved city was hit hard in every corner – businesses were forced to shut down, and people had no choice but to resign from their jobs. The tourism sector constantly saw plummeting numbers as Covid-19 cases kept increasing.
Amidst these challenges, the hope and resilience of the people of Baguio remained high and strong as we welcome Panagbenga with open arms. The announcement of the Alert Level 1 status, the significant decrease in daily cases, and the communal spirit of the people are the progress we look forward to as we slowly recover from this health crisis. Let us rise together as we plant the seeds of hope in our homes. Let the thousand flowers of hope bloom beautifully and without delay. Happy Panagbenga! (DENVER KOBY L. SORIANO)