THE word “Festival” came from the word “feast” – a community’s celebration of abundance or an aspect of that community’s religion or traditions. Historically, although such kind of celebration in many cultures originated from religion (like our country’s town fiesta in commemoration of patron saints, or other country’s commemoration of their ancient gods), many cultures center their festivity on “harvest” like most Cordillera towns. Those essential qualities of festivals are not lost in modern festivals – they will always be a celebration of the community, although now considered as tourism events.
“So if it is a community event, why are Baguio folks staying in their homes during the city’s Panagbenga?” one posted in Facebook, reminiscing the time when Baguio and Cordillera residents flock the city to watch the annual parades and presentations. Just like most of us, I am a witness to the evolution of the flower festival as a wide-eyed kid in Burnham park. Today, our Baguio friends and neighbors call themselves “team bahay” and have resigned to just let fresh eyes (tourists) have their own Panagbenga experiences. Hence, the expression: “Ti taga-Baguio ket ijay TV da nga buybuyaen ti Panagbenga”. Truth is, although it is still a community event, said community has already expanded – Baguio City, and its celebrations like Panagbenga, is owned, not only by Baguio people, but by the entire country and the world. Such is the consequence of decades of significant promotions – “come here in Baguio City”, “it is OUR Panagbenga, OUR festival”.
Even though the success of most tourism offices are measured by tourism arrivals and statistics, the tourism officers already knew and accepted such double-edged costs. That is why most of them opt for moderate promotions when the carrying capacity of a place evidently cannot handle a huge arrival of visitors. In the words of a tourism colleague, “Yes we can invite hundreds of thousands of people by investing heavily on marketing and promotions, but can our roads, sidewalks, grounds, and tourist spots handle such horde?” Unless we intend our community members to watch the community celebrations in their homes, full festival promotions shall perhaps be reconsidered in smaller towns.
“Isugarud nga pyesta tapnu adu ti tao!” another friend would blurt out, insisting that crowd is an inherent quality of the festival. Then, an eternal argument would ensue absent any compromise of viewpoints. The magic word, as they say, should be “sustainable”.
If you are reading this paper today (February 27, 2018), and you yearn for a cup of coffee, proceed to the La Trinidad Municipal gym immediately and have some of our very own coffee Arabica! The simple coffee festival of La Trinidad with the theme, “Brewing unity through coffee” intends to pay tribute to our town’s coffee producers and stakeholders, and promote La Trinidad’s coffee industry. After the mini coffee fest, the town will open the Strawberry Festival celebrations on March 9, 2018. The main events will be on March 16, 2018 (which is a holiday for La Trinidad), and March 17, 2018 for the parades (street dancing, drum and lyre competition, and float parade).