February 22, 2024

■  Hanna C. Lacsamana   

USHERING IN PANAGBENGA 2024 — Students of Baguio Central School led the festive mood with a great performance during the launch of the Panagbenga 2024 by the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. in coordination with the city government on Dec. 18 at the City Hall grounds. — Redjie Cawis

Next year’s Panagbenga promises another more vib-rant edition through innovations in the conduct of the grandest festival that celebrates the city’s unique culture and heritage.

Moving to its 28th year, the 2024 Baguio Flower Festival will sustain excellence in “Celebrating traditions, embracing innovation”, organizers announced during the festival’s formal launch on Dec. 18.

BFF Foundation, Inc. (BFFFI) President Frederico Alquiros said the annual celebration is a testament to the city’s rich cultural heritage and innovative spirit.

“It is not merely a festival but a symbol of our community’s resilience, unity, and enduring traditions,” Alquiros said.

He said this year’s theme “is a tribute to the past and a nod to the future,” encapsulating the commitment of the city to preserving the legacy of the Panagbenga and its founders while adapting to the evolving dynamics of the modern world.

“Panagbenga is not just a showcase of beautiful flowers. It is a canvas where our cultural narratives and future aspirations converge. As we unveil the festival calendar, we invite you to immerse yourselves in various activities designed to captivate and engage. Each event reflects our community’s talent, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit from vibrant parades to mesmerizing exhibitions,” he said.

He urged everyone to celebrate together, for Panagbenga is not just Baguio’s pride but “a shining beacon of our collective spirit, a celebration of who we are and a promise of who we become,” as he also thanked the city government and partners in the tourism and creative industry for their support and collaboration which have been instrumental in realizing such vision.

The city government, through Mayor Benjamin Magalong, thanked the BFFFI as it committed to provide the support the private-sector led festival needs in cementing its reputation as one of the most organized festivals in the country.

Department of Tourism-Cordillera Director Jovita Ganongan also assured the agency’s support to Panagbenga by helping provide excellent service through training of over 6,000 tourism workers on Filipino brand of hospitality and introducing new events that make the festival more vibrant and offer tourists more options for tourists.

BFFFI Executive Committee Chair Anthony de Leon added they are focusing more on coming up with more adoptable events that can be tourism-friendly and at the same time friendly to the environment and making sure they will get more participation from the community not just of Baguio but also of the LISTT to participate in the flower festival as this it more of a regional celebration already.

“It’s not only in their participation in the parades but also in coming up with complementary events in their respective areas so that we can distribute the crowd and not only focused on the city but in nearby towns. This has been the desire of the foundation for many years now but we should still keep on pushing for this,” de Leon said.

Alquiros said among the innovations to be introduced in the conduct of the festival next year is that there will now be small, medium, and large categories from only small and big categories previously in the grand float parade to allow more participants to join.

They are also mulling over having elementary, high school, and college categories in the grand street parade competition, which in previous years had elementary and open categories.

Cultural presentations will also have a separate schedule from street dancing presentation to manage the length and time of the parade.

Members of the community such as individuals, government agencies, and other organizations may all join during the festival’s opening parade on Feb. 3 and may only join the grand float parade if they have a float, in keeping with the intention of the parade.

The festival’s grand opening from next year will be held on the Saturday closest to Feb. 1 so as not to disrupt school classes.

Magalong said traffic plan is also in place in order to manage vehicular traffic and crowd flow.

The Panagbenga activities will run from Feb. 3 to March 3, 2024 and will be highlighted by the traditional events such as the Handog ng Pamilya sa Pamilya Baguio: The Family Fair on Feb. 11, judging of school-based landscaping competition on Feb. 17; fluvial parade at Burnham Lake on Feb. 18; Panagbenga cultural dance competition on Feb. 18; Panagbenga sponsors’ exhibit on Feb. 24 to 25; grand street dance parade on Feb. 24; grand floral float parade on Feb. 25; Feb. 26 to March 3, Session Road in Bloom; and celestial blossoms (Pangbenga grand aerial fireworks display) on March 3.