April 22, 2024

The organizers of Panagbenga 2020 and the city government of Baguio are in a quandary on whether to push through with the celebration of the flower festival this year. The festivity is scheduled to start on the last week of March and to end two weeks thereafter. Everybody is looking forward to that. However, there are clamors from medical society groups to do away with the celebration, even if only for this year, for health and safety reasons.
I guess the mayor is having a headache about this too. His heart is probably telling him to push through with the flower festival but his mind says otherwise. The threat of getting infected by the Covid-19 is for real.
The Panagbenga is a yearly event held in Baguio. It is as colorful as the rainbow because it aims to depict the blooming of flowers. It is patronized by people all over the world, making it the biggest tourist draw for the city. It generates pride for the residents of Baguio and is a source of income for the local government. It is as much anticipated as Christmas and New Year.
The festival was supposed to be ushered in last month. It was, however, postponed. February was the coldest month of the year spiking the fear that the cool weather may activate the virus, especially in crowded places.
Apparently, there are reports that the global effect of the Covid-19 is on a decline.
In China, where the epicenter of the virus is, there are less and less people being infected and a number of those sick are being cured. This is encouraging. It is boosting the confidence of the organizers of the flower festival that this may be a sign that the Panagbenga may proceed as scheduled.
But, just when we were getting too confident for our comfort, there are other news that the Covid-19 is spreading quickly across the globe. Already, South Korea, Iran, Italy, and Japan are getting seriously infected. They are enforcing lockdowns. Travel advisories are aplenty not to travel to these places, unless necessary. In addition, various governments are prohibiting the gathering of crowds. Thus, concerts, sports activities, and religious gatherings among other events that attract crowd have been cancelled and are, for the meantime, banned.
How many people does the Panagbenga attract? What is the average number of the audience that watch the street dancing and the float parade? Obviously, it is more than 5,000 people. There was a time that the attendance reached a million. The conglomeration of people during the flower festival, coupled with the cool weather, makes it a perfect breeding ground for the Covid-19.
The Department of Health is in constant denial about the true state of the Covid-19 in the Philippines. We really will never know. The information being fed upon us is not consistent. One day, DOH officials say that we are free from the virus and the other day, they say that there are a hundred people classified as “persons under investigation,” whatever that means. It is known, however, that there were people who died of the Covid-19 in the Philippines, albeit they are Chinese who traveled here from Wuhan. The virus knows no bounds.
We do not want to tempt fate and take the chance of being infected. Remember, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
So, there are compelling reasons for medical society groups to plead to the mayor not to push through with the celebration of the Panagbenga. There is a threat and it is for real. The city cannot selfishly afford to sacrifice the health of its residents and its guests in exchange for a tradition that may anyway be suspended and celebrated on another day. There is always a next year to look forward to.