July 22, 2024

Under normal circumstances, there are usually two events that we look forward to in February. First is Valentine’s Day and second is the Panagbenga or Baguio Flower Festival. Of the two, the latter is the one most anticipated because it is more festive and a public spectacle that excites not only residents of Baguio but the world as well.
But these are not normal circumstances. In fact, we are on our second round of general community quarantine. Our movement is limited and we are not allowed to crowd or gather to celebrate any occasion. This situation has made our daily life cumbersome and burdensome. It robbed us of our right to converge and enjoy the simple things, like the yearly street dancing, the floral parade, and everything that the Panagbenga enlivens, that life can offer.
During the month of February, we can do away with the Valentine’s Day celebration, especially for those who are loveless, hopelessly romantic, and married couples who have found their love. In its bare essence, it is only for the young.
It is not the case for the Panagbenga. The fun it gives might be fleeting, but every year, there is something unique in it that makes everybody happy and satisfied. The sight of all those flowers and the festivity it brings in the atmosphere are always something to behold. No wonder, tourists from all over the world flock to Baguio during this time of the year to spend time to straighten their bodies and relax their minds by appreciating the activities lined up for the festival. Not this year, though.
The organizers of the event have not fully given up on this year’s edition of the Panagbenga. They are thinking of upholding the tradition by holding a virtual session of street dancing and float parades. The problem is, where will they get the participants when children are not allowed to go out of their houses? Where will they cut the buds and flowers to display along with the floats if travel restrictions ban un-cleared vehicles from entering the city? And most of all, who will watch a virtual parade that might not be properly organized at all?
To celebrate the flower festival via computer-generated images is not as saleable as a live one. An audience, any audience, prefers to see the colors and smell the scent of a real flower with no advertisements and exaggerations in between. You know what I mean.
There are vestiges of what the city intends to do with the Panagbenga this year. Already, Session Road is painted with yellow daisies and sunflowers. It is not the same as the previous years but at least, it reminds us that it is Panagbenga month. Then again, what good will the festival be without the celebration?
We need not be reminded how important Panagbenga is to the city and its people. It is not only a tradition; it is a part of what our city is and of what we are. It is this time of the year when people ascend to this lovely place and congratulate us for making another version of the Panagbenga meaningful to them. It gives us pride, glory, and honor.
Still, the situation demands the scrapping of the Panagbenga for the second straight year. Hard as it might be to accept this truth, the reality beckons that the safety of everyone is of paramount acceptance. Like a queen’s gambit, the celebration of the Panagbenga must be put on hold.
Only for the meantime.