Panagbenga: A true Cordillera festival-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Friday, February 24, 2012
SHOWCASING the rich culture and heritage of the Cordillera people is definitely back in the Panagbenga street dancing parade.
The celebration of the Panagbenga festival in the past may have had its blunders, especially with last year’s lackluster taped music, annoying gaps and lack of flair and originality during the street dancing parade.
But this year’s annual spectacle of Baguio’s flowers and culture, organizers proclaim, makes a turnaround with the entry of the Baguio Cultural Society into the picture.
Highlighting this year’s theme of “Community convergence for a sustainable tourism growth,” the Panagbenga Festival metamorphosis, like a butterfly, aims to become a world-class Cordillera festival.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan, Panagbenga Festival overall chairman, explains the presence of the society composed of local choreographers and cultural show impresarios have made the festival’s street dancing parade something every Baguioite will be proud of.
Mayor Domogan explains gone were the days when the festival was only celebrated by the former American hill station’s residents but it is now slowly growing into a regional festival, a true-blue Cordillera festival.
With a million tourists drawn during the month-long activities economic gains are highly visible for the city’s tourism industry.
Panagbenga Executive Committee Chairman Anthony De Leon claims this year’s annual spectacle of flowers has been a work in progress through the years.
Street Dancing Competition
On its 24th year, De Leon claimed the Baguio Historical Society helped showcase the uniqueness of the street dancing competition.
With BCS president Laurel Bangaoet and University of the Cordillera assistant vice president Aloysius Mapalo taking the helm to ensure the authenticity of festival dance movements compared to last year’s canned music.
The parade became lively with mashed up rhythms from indigenous instruments converging with music from drum and lyre instruments all playing SLU Dean Macario Fronda’s Panagbenga Hymn.
Engr. Mapalo, in an earlier interview, stressed they tapped dance experts from the academe to give inputs in the dance performances which made the dances more authentic with forward movements to remove lags in performances which annoyed the crowds waiting for performers to arrive in previous years.
Festival co-chairman Frederico Alquiros claimed aside from the dynamic dance performances and the jovial music, the costumes in the opening parade last February 1 was also a stunning display of the aesthetic improvements.
“Flower-inspired costumes have more color, flow and detail which make it different from previous festivals,” he said.
Participation has also improved. This year, aside from school children who already competed last February 1, contingents from the region’s provinces and periphery also increased. Performances from opening parade winners Baguio Central School, Don Mariano Marcos Elementary School and Baguio SPED Center will show why they stomped their nine other performers in the Elementary Street dance and Drum and Lyre category.
This Saturday’s parade include performances from neighboring local governments such as Tabuk City, Kalinga; Kabayan, Benguet; Ifugao State University Theater Guild; Mountain Province Dances from Benguet State University; and the Saint Louis University Cordillera Cultural performing Group.
Not to be outdone, yearly participation from crowd-favorites Baguio City National High School Special program for the Arts, Pinsao National High School and Baguio Chroeography Academy will also again dazzle audiences.
The parade will also offer Cordillera-inspired dances from neighboring towns in Northern Luzon such as Osias Educational Foundation in Balaoan, La Union and Aritao High School in Nueva Vizcaya.
This year’s number of street dancing participants is truly a manifestation the Panagbenga has matured into a regional festival with Cordillera provinces and towns contributing to the dances capturing spectators in awe year after year.
Grand Float Parade
The Grand Float Parade, the main showcase of Filipino ingenuity with flower-festooned floats, is also the major crowd drawer if not the main attraction.
Chairman De Leon claims the crowd usually doubles or triples on the float parade patterned after the Parade of Roses in Pasadena, California.
Floats with mascots and enchanting characters from fairies to princesses to mythical creatures have brought smiles to revelers every year.
This year, the crowd must await their favorite TV and movie celebrities riding flower-bedecked floats, especially from the country’s major television networks, ABS-CBN, GMA and TV5.
As of Thursday, some 26 float parade participants already confirmed joining of the parade with 13 floats competing for best float design plums.
According to organizers, these float participants exerted time, effort and money for the design of their floats, costing between P200,000 to more than P1 million.
Flowers, usually sourced from neighboring La Trinidad, now come from other flower producing towns in Luzon as demand for flowers usually increase every flower festival.
Showcase of local talents
For the Father of Panagbenga, the man who has thought of the festival more than two decades ago, lawyer Damaso Bangaoet claimed the festival has improved through the years.
“We don’t have to have people to tell us what we do, we have local talents that are as a good or even better in making Panagbenga dances better,” he said.
He said the festival has bloomed into a showcase of the Cordillera culture for the people to marvel in many years to come.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 25, 2012.