April 17, 2024

■  Ofelia C. Empian 

The iconic sound of the Panagbenga hymn once again filled Baguio’s main thoroughfares as residents and guests led by students paraded to its tune during the opening of the 2024 Baguio Flower Festival on Feb. 3.

City officials led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Rep. Marquez Go, and officials of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. led by chairman for life Mauricio Domogan spearheaded the civic parade from the Panagbenga Park to Session Road to Harrison Road up to the Melvin Jones football field where the parade culminated. 

Prior to the parade, an inter-faith community prayer at the Panagbenga Park was held with leaders of religious groups praying for blessing from the Almighty while the indigenous prayer was offered by Domogan. 

Officials in the 129 barangays of the city, which were divided into 20 districts, were all clad in colorful and flower-print clothes that stayed true with the theme of the annual festival.

Magalong, in his speech, said this year’s theme, “Celebrating traditions, embracing innovations” encapsulates the spirit of the Panagbenga.

“This reminds us of the importance of honoring our rich heritage while also embracing the opportunities that innovation brings. As we look back on our history, let us look forward with optimism and creativity,” Magalong said. 

Civic groups also joined the parade including the Pines City Dog Lovers of the Highland North with their adorable pets and the Baguio Cosplay Community, among other groups. 

Highlighting the parade were the drum and lyre bands starting from the Saint Louis University which was the opener in the parade followed by the drum and lyre by participating elementary schools in the city and nearby towns.

Also wowing the crowd were the cultural dance troupes from the secondary schools who donned the Cordillera’s cultural attires and performed while parading at the central business district.

It was only the elementary school contingents who performed and were initially given points for their performances.

Manuel Roxas Elementary School led the six schools for the drum and lyre competition with 26.5 percent, followed by Tuba Central ES and Lucban ES that tied on second place with 25.75 percent, Baguio Central ES with 25.40 percent, Apolinario Mabini ES with 25.25 percent, and Jose Laurel ES with 24.65 percent.

The scores are the partial and unofficial ranking of the participating elementary schools, which is 30 percent of their official scores to be completed in the grand street dancing parade on Feb. 24.

The grand float parade follows on Feb. 25, where big and small flower-filled floats will be witnessed as part of the lineup of activities for the month-long festival. (Photos by Ofelia C. Empian)