History of the Panagbenga
The Panagbenga started with just an idea that Baguio City should, like other towns and cities in the Philippines, have it's own "fiesta" or festival celebration. Having been created a city by the Americans during their occupation of the Philippines, Baguio did not start as a town during the Spanish colonial period that had a patron saint with a feast day.
Its charter day anniversary is on September 1, which falls right in the middle of the country's rainy season, which does not allow for parades and other outdoor activities that usually are the highlight of such celebrations.
An Idea That Went Full-bloom
In 1995 when Atty. Damaso E. Bangaoet, Jr., proposed the idea of organizing a flower festival to be held in February to the directors of the John Hay Poro Point Development Corporation, his suggestion received their immediate approval.
I asked Atty. Bangaoet years ago, "Why February?" He responded, "Because the weather in February is perfect, plus it gives folks a reason to visit us between Christmas and Holy Week."
Thereafter the idea was presented to the different sectors of Baguio society and their response, also warm and immediate, eventually grew as a wellspring of community support.
- An identity was created that was to reflect the rich cultural heritage tof Baguio City and the Cordillera region. The official logo was selected from among those submitted by the students of all levels at the Camp John Hay Art Contest. Trisha Tabangin's winning entry of a spray of wild sunflowers was selected.
- The festival hymn was composed by Saint Louis University (SLU) Professor Macario Fronda, which was learned by all the school children. It is still that music that wafts in the air all thoughout the festival during the parades.
- The core events remain the same: The Parade of Floats, Steet Dancing & Band Competitions, Session Road in Bloom, Market Encounter, Pony Boys Day, etc.
- The original Barangay Community Garden competition participated in by the different local government units, which was one of Atty Bangaoet's most brilliant ideas that was designed for the city to have as many pocket gardens and mini parks as there were barangays, sadly no longer figures in the Panagbenga.
- Many other events have been added with civic organizations holding privately run and funded activities, too.
In the beginning, the Panagbenga was a series of celebrations that were held over a period of 10 days encompassing two weekends: the first being the launching ceremonies, the weekdays being Session Road in Bloom and the last weekend was when the Grand Parades were held. Due it its popularity, the period was extended to two weeks, then three, then held for the whole month of February, always taking full advantage of the presence of the alumni of the Philippine Military Academy during PMA Week which is timed for Valentine's Day. Now the festival stretches to five weeks!
A few years later the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation (BFFF) was organized to manage the festival.
The Panagbenga has always received huge media coverage because of the instaneous popularity it has enjoyed from the very beginning. Every year, visitors are treated to a display of the strength of the local community sprit as the residents stage the hottest show in the coolest city in the Philippines.
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