THE staging of the 2018 Panagbenga, now on its 23rd year, goes with the theme “Celebration of Culture and Creativity.”
It takes off from the latest laurel of the city. It was declared the first Creative City of Crafts and Folk Arts in the country recognized by the Unesco Creative Cities Network (UCCN) in 2017.
Spearheaded by the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation Inc. and the city government, the private-public partnership launched the event with its 11 traditional activities and added Exhibitors and Sponsors Day on February 24 and 25.
Children will open the festival on February 1 with the yearly elementary level drum-and-lyre and street-dancing competitions.
City Mayor Mauricio Domogan in his speech emphasized the high expectations of Panagbenga 2018 after 22 years of being celebrated—a spectacle happening like the blossoming of the festival itself. He said the Panagbenga can only happen because of cooperation and teamwork.
Frederico Alquiros, cochairman of Panagbenga, said with the inclusion of the city in the UCCN, the cultural aspects already ingrained in the festival, such as the street dancing, will be enhanced and the creativity expanded.
Creativity will be a plus point in the criteria set for the booths and the market encounter and school-based activities, among others, he said. Artists are also encouraged to take part in the festival’s yearly family activity “Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom,” as part of the Handog ng Panagbenga Pamilya Baguio, happening on February 11, to further boost the creative aspect of the festival.
The festival executive committee is also planning on designating a prominent area for the artists and craftsmen, where their artworks and crafts can be exhibited.
The standards of creativity as criteria for several of the activities will not solely be decided by the artists’ groups in the city, although they will be part of collective decisions, organizers said.
“The Panagbenga itself is a product of creativity, “ Domogan said, stressing the aesthetics of the festival have been decided by many people, and not artists exclusively.
For other activities to be included, the organizers and the executive committee of the festival are open to holding dialogues with artists for events that will enhance the Creative City status of the city.
The UCCN recognition, in fact, also spurred the creation of a Creativity Commission in the making at the city-council level under which an arts and culture committee will be part of.
Panagbenga cochairman and City Councilor Elmer Datuin hopes the flower festival will open opportunities for the multidisciplines of the arts.
The Panagbenga can be a springboard for jump-starting the Creative Economy direction that the Department of Trade and Industry is taking, a move that should uplift the status of artists.
Panagbenga has traditionally been staged on an average of an P11-million budget, with P4 million contributed from the city coffers to cover prizes for competition activities, and the rest raised from sponsors.
Meanwhile, chief of city police, P/Supt. Ramil Saculles appealed for community participation to quell any threats to peace and order for any crowd-drawing activities, such as the Panagbenga.
Since its start, Panagbenga, meaning blossoming in the Kankana-ey dialect, has been the biggest crowd drawer in the city tourism map, and the design of street dancing and float parade copied elsewhere in the country, thus gaining its name as mother of all festivals.
Panagbenga highlights, such as the Grand Street Dance will be held on February 24 with the Grand Float Parade happening the day after. Session Road in Bloom opens on February 26, a weeklong trade fair selling various local products from different regions.
Panagbenga will be a closing affair that will end with fireworks on the evening of March 4.