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Volume 3, Number 2 February 9 -15, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Festival of Flowers and Schools of Thought
City’s Panagbenga opened last Feb. 1
and will end March 2. Now on its eighth yearly run, the Flower Festival has
attracted its usual hordes of visitors and culture vultures even as it continues
to draw criticism for its commercialism and downgrading the genuine ethnic
CITY - “Let a thousand flowers bloom,” has its own tale beyond what Mao
Zedong has to say for his “Let a thousand flowers blossom and a hundred
schools of thought contend.” As the theme of the Panagbenga or Baguio
Flower Festival, the quotation reflects the city’s answer to its culture and
tourism intensification. It remains
to be seen, however, if it will just become a reminder or a complete parody of
the saying from which it was compared.
by Damaso Bangaoet, Jr. of the John
Hay Poro Point Development Corporation (JPDC) and Victor A. Lim of the Bases
Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), Panagbenga was conceived in 1995
to symbolize Baguio’s comeback after the July 16, 2000 earthquake.
Panagbenga, a Kankanaey term for “a season of blossoming,”
also became a tribute to the flowers growing in abundance in the city.
festival’s main thrust was “to highlight the best of what the city can offer
and generate business for the community.”
Street dancing, market encounter, float parade and many more were added
to the line-up of activities.
in February each year, the festival also serves as a barometer of the dry months
ahead. Baguio, as the summer
capital of the Philippines, invests on its cold climate as part of the tourism
intensification program. For its
eighth year, half a million visitors are expected to come and join the
the festival, the Igorot ethnic culture becomes a showcase for the city’s best
features. Participants are garbed as flowers while others incorporate a touch of
Cordilleran in their costumes. In dance, the Bendian, an Ibaloi dance of
celebration, figures among many other performances .
the Panagbenga has presented a tradition and the convergence of the
cultures it has, to some quarters, projected a wrong impression.
Mary Carling, officer-in-charge of the Dap-ayan ti Kultura ti Kordilyera
(DKK), says the festival has destroyed the real essence of the Cordillera
peoples’ ethnic culture.
example, dancing to the beat of a modern song or displaying the Cordilleran
threads in a “Sex-bomb” way is a complete bastardization of the culture, she
adds that the Panagbenga and other commercially-oriented tourism projects
in the city have virtually reduced the value of aesthetics.
Citing the parallelism between the concrete pine tree (found on Session
Road) and the fake sunflowers that abound in the city, she says that, “looking
around Baguio is what beauty’s all about.
Sadly, the real essence of beauty (of the flowers and pine trees) is not
these, many Baguio residents have apparently chosen to keep quiet so as not to
be labeled as “kill-joys” or “party-poopers.”
The high spirits of the revelers seem to justify the merrymaking.
the same, the merrymaking does not justify festival’s environmental impact and
the economic plight of the ordinary participants.
tourists pouring into the city months before the event (this year’s Panagbenga
officially opened Feb. 1 and will end March 2, with Feb. 22-23 for the Grand
Parade), residents have to make do with water rationing amid the growing air and
recent news citing World Bank studies says Baguio is now one of the most
polluted cities in the country.
blasting down Session Road has caught the ire of people living nearby or just
walking through. Others have been
devastated with the changes going on at the Athletic Bowl which is being
refurbished for reasons other than sports.
flowers are the centerpiece of the festival, the issue of their mass cultivation
has alarmed the local industry farmers. Many farmers say that orchids and anthuriums for export have
taken the place of other agricultural products such as vegetables and root
crops. The nutrient content of
natural fertilizers has diminished because of the excessive use of pesticides.
No wonder, aggravated by the onslaught of imported vegetables, the death
of the local farm industry is imminent. Otherwise,
there is nothing left to eat but the flowers.
wilting of the flowers
schools in all levels competing in the street dancing, ask their participants to
buy costumes and props for additional attraction. Parents and teachers have no choice but to shoulder the
for the month-long festival competitions last about a month or two sacrificing
long school hours. Teachers sweat it out to train their students for competition
but cannot expect any remuneration.
all these, the Panagbenga spirit has not waned. Some groups use the festival as a forum for issues. For
instance, students and faculty of the University of the Philippines-Baguio have
for four years made a political capital out of the grand parade to propagate
such causes as the opposition to the education budget cut (last year, somebody
placed a placard on top of a bumblebee mascot).
Others have crafted alternative celebrations such as performing the pattong
(another Igorot dance), following a forum denouncing the backlash of the
mainstream event on culture.
others have simply done away with the whole festival.
The eighth Baguio Flower Festival this February will still be a hit, simply through the merrymaking and not the thousand flowers whether blossoming or wilting upon its wake. Bulatlat.com