Baguio’s Panagbenga festival goes global-A A +A
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
IT’S more Funagbenga in the Philippines!
This was what festival organizers call the country’s new tourism slogan when a whopping 1.5 million tourists, according to police estimates, flocked to the Summer Capital over the weekend to witness the 17th staging of the annual spectacle of floats and street performances that officials claim have gained worldwide attention.
Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. told Mayor Mauricio Domogan the city has the opportunity to become the next “Flower Capital of Asia” with global reach by marketing festivals abroad.
“This kind of festival is the kind of energy we can bring to the rest of the world,” Jimenez said. “I did not realize until I visited today that the level of craftsmanship for the flower floats is very high.”
He suggested for the city to start developing its potential as a flower capital through massive planting of flowers all over the city.
“Visitors entering the city should notice these flowers in its outskirts to reinforce this marketing strategy,” he added.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan, the festival’s overall chairman, emphasized that when the flower festival started some 17 years ago, the City Government only earns around P20 million in business taxes. But this year, revenue increased to more than P150 million.
The tourism industry, he said, has provided a steady source of revenue for the city that continues to grow every year.
According to Domogan, this only means Baguio is economically gaining from tourism-related establishments to transport and other businesses.
Panagbenga executive committee chairman Anthony De Leon agreed with Mayor Domogan, citing some 2,400 rooms in hotels and inns alone were booked a week before the festival.
Add to this the media mileage of the Panagebenga as several international networks, including some based in the United States and Korea, aired the festival.
With the advent of social media and the Internet, live streaming of the float and street dance parades were also watched by audiences, especially Baguioites and overseas Filipino workers who miss their hometown.
With a telecommunications company providing free wi-fi access to spectators in parade routes, visitors were able to post photos immediately in their Facebook and Twitter accounts and blogs.
This year’s street dancing competition was truly a regional gathering of indigenous culture, music and dance.
Regional Development Council chairman and Kalinga Governor Jocel Baac said the level of competition has broadened with several local governments, including Tabuk City in his province joining the event.
He said with the dream of being autonomous, the Cordillera region’s unity during the festival was attested by the participation of these local governments.
De Leon said the inclusion of the Baguio Cultural Society in the preparation of street dance performances helped make the dances more entertaining and informative, showcasing the rich culture and heritage of the region.
With the help of the Department of Tourism, he added the festival has now matured and is now ready to conquer global audiences.
Amazing dances and floats
In the street dancing parade, performances include native indigenous dances from the Bag-o tribe, Benguet’s Bendiyan dance, Kalinga’s Matagoan Kawayan Rite, Nan Biagisnan Nukan de Agew, Gotad Ad Ifugao, Tadek from Mt. Province, Turayan and Senapor Eagle dances and Ammungan Gaddang dances.
The winners in the street dancing are Kabayan, Benguet’s Adivay Festival presentation (1st Place); Tabuk City’s Matagoan Festival (2nd Place) and Baguio City National High School-Special Program in the Arts (3rd place).
Flower-bedecked floats were also spectacular this year with designs depicting popular games Angry Birds of the City Government, Star Wars-inspired float of Baguio Country Club, and Giant Dragon float by SM Baguio.
This year’s first place winner for the float competition is M. Lhuillier’s float designed with Malaysian mums, chrysanthemums and everlasting blooms shaped like a 4-wheeler vehicle laden with beauties of last year’s Miss Earth pageant.
Second place went to the float of the Department of Tourism with sun and stars concept with Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone authority chief operating officer Mark Lapid riding the float, while Manila North Tollways Corporation’s expressway-themed float placed third.
Among the television stars spotted in the parade were Dingdong Dantes, Marian Rivera at GMA-7’s float; Vice Ganda, Kim Atienza, Jhong Hilario and Ryan Bang in ABS-CBN’s float; and Amy Perez, Shalani Soledad and Tuesday Vargas in TV 5’s float.
As a whole, organizers proclaimed the festival highlights as a success due to the collective of the people of Baguio who suggest improvements in the festival every year.
“Expect to see more improvements and new things to enjoy in the future Panagbenga festivities,” De Leon said. (JM Agreda)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 29, 2012.