Panagbenga 2023 to go full blast
After two years of going low-profile due to the pandemic, the Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga will be coming back in its full glory – going full blast, fully operational, and 100 percent in its activities next year, the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. and city government announced during its launching on Dec. 12.
Themed “A Renaissance of Wonder and Beauty”, Panabenga 2023 will stage the grand street parade and street dancing for the first time after two years without as part of Covid-19 safety measures in 2020 and 2021, along with the other events regularly lined up during the month-long festivities.
“We will astound the world with our finest presentation that showcases our creativity and expresses only the very best of our own cultural heritage. Let Panagbenga flourish again as our hope amidst difficulties,” Mayor Benjamin Magalong said during the launching as he joined the unveiling of the festival and its theme at City Hall.
He said for two years, the pandemic robbed the city of the opportunity to stage this festival but the period has provided the city with the reset button for the tourism industry.
“We have managed to recover not only economically but also in terms of how we manage our tourism industry now. I am proud that everyone worked tirelessly to make this possible, for successfully managing our cases and having a high vaccination rate. We thank all our health workers, men and women in uniform, city government employees, our partners from the private sector and our citizens for making this possible,” the mayor said.
He added there will be no-holds barred in the conduct of the festival, and despite the fact the city is going to experience an increase in Covid-19 cases due to the various variants that are now affecting other countries, “there will be no let up in our festival in 2023.”
“We are also expecting an increase in influenza cases. But as I have said we have to learn to live with these viruses kaya go tayo. We will proceed as planned,” Magalong said.
While excited for leading the annual festivity full blast for the first time since becoming mayor in 2019, Magalong said he is at the same time anxious the city will be expecting a lot of visitors and tourists to watch the festival.
He said the city has to prepare and come up with contingency plans to make sure that residents as well as the visitors will be safe.
There is also a need to address irritability among residents.
“As hotels reported surpassing its pre-pandemic occupancy, it is good for business and for our recovery. But at the same time, it gives so much stress to our local residents. So we need to strike a balance,” Magalong said.
He said the city is planning carefully in order to prevent traffic gridlock, which is one of the biggest factors in addressing the concerns in the upcoming festival.
BFFFI co-chair Anthony de Leon said the hotel industry will also have to cooperate with the city government and traffic management,with traffic being a major issue not only during the flower festival but even now during the Christmas holidays where the city is already experiencing heavy traffic.
“It’s going to be important to have the private sector partnering with the local government to deliver the necessary services and at least do our best and provide what we can to our visitors,” de Leon said, adding the city may have to cope with and mitigate the so-called revenge travel and the expected number of visitors that will be generated with the start of the Baguio-Cebu flights via Philippine Airlines on Dec. 16.
In terms of crowd control during the Panagbenga main events with the recent Dec. 1 lantern parade as “litmus test”, Magalong said they are looking at coming up with more buffers in strategic areas along the parade lines so there will be space for movement. They will also have to deploy more personnel to manage the crowd.
“We have to innovate and introduce more safety measures to make sure all our visitors and local residents will be safe. That’s our primordial concern now. Anything can happen, so better for us to be proactive about it. We are working on it,” the mayor said.
With the return of a full-blown festival, BFFFI chair Atty. Mauricio Domogan reminded the Panagbenga is an opportunity for the Baguio people to get together and be thankful for having the environment for such an event and to be reminded of their obligation to sustain their resources.
He said the festival is also an opportunity to gather together regardless of tribe, to feel that everyone is a member of the Baguio family obligated to work and cooperate with each other for the betterment and development of our city
Domogan said Panagbenga is as well an opportunity to show to the world the unique culture of the Cordillera, including those who migrated and who live with the locals, which is a way helping sustain the city’s tourism industry and its status as an education center. – Hanna C. Lacsamana