Baguio expects Duterte to grace ‘Panagbenga’ festival

BAGUIO CITY — The people of Baguio are expecting President Rodrigo Duterte to grace the grand parade of the city’s annual Baguio Flower Festival or “Panagbenga” on February 24.

The month-long festival opened Thursday, with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque standing as guest speaker, at the newly refurbished Baguio Athletic Bowl.

The festivities will go on until March 4, with the highlight grand street dancing parade on February 24 and flower floats parade on February 25.

The city government had sent an invitation to Malacañang for the President to be the guest speaker during the program of the grand street dancing parade on February 24.

In a press conference here on Thursday, Roque said he would try to convince Duterte to attend the festival’s grand street dancing parade.

“Asahan niyo po na kukulitin ko siya, para makabalik ako ng Baguio. Sa ngayon, wala pa sa schedule (Expect that I will keep on convincing the President. As of the moment it’s not on the schedule yet),” he said.

Roque said he was also a Baguioan, as he told residents during the opening program that he was building his very first residential house in the city. He added he, too, was a proud Cordilleran.

Panagbenga is a native Kankanaey word for “blossoming”. The opening parade on Thursday starting at 8 a.m. from upper Session Road down to Magsaysay Avenue going to Harrison Road then to the Baguio Athletic Bowl for the showdown of the elementary category of the drum and lyre and street dancing competitions.

As the parade went on Thursday, an elimination round cut down the number of competing elementary school participants from the city -from the 11 original participants to only eight.

The top eight elementary schools in Baguio will vie against each other for the same category in their best and colorful native-inspired and flower-decorated costumes playing and dancing marching music of their choice and the Panagbenga hymn to the rhythm of native Ibaloi Bindiyan.

The eight finalists for the street dancing and drum and lyre competition are Mabini Elementary School, with the theme “Pigsa ken Kagam: a tribute to our culture”, Baguio Central School, “Legend of the blooming flowers in Cordillera”, Tuba Central School, “Blooming flowers of Tuba”, Josefa Cariño Elem. School, “Kulturang nagbuklod tungo sa kapayapaan at kaunlaran“, Aguinaldo Elem. School, “Fostering a culture of caring”, Dominican Mirador Elem. School, “Pagbukrad“, Manuel L. Quezon Elementary School, “Baguio: city of loving people who nurture culture and preserve nature”, and Jose P. Laurel Elementary School, “Unfolding love and culture among the upland and lowlands”.

Senior citizens also danced and swayed to the tune of the Panagbenga hymn.

The garden landscape competition, showcasing the different blooms and plants grown in Baguio and Benguet, also took place on the opening day, exhibiting the creativity and ingenuity of the local garden landscape artists.

Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan ordered the suspension of classes in the elementary and high school for both public and private schools in the city to enable the students to join the festivities.

With the theme “Celebration of Culture and Creativity,” the city government and the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. hopes to showcase in the festival the lively cultural practices of the Cordillerans through dance and costumes.

The theme is in line with the city’s inclusion in the UNESCO “Creative Cities” list in 2017.

Domogan expects this year’s Panagbenga festival to be “better and bigger” than ever, considering the heightened participation of the barangays, the educational institutions, and multinational and local corporations, especially for the grand parade of the flower festival.

The mayor said he hoped President Duterte would grant the city’s request for him to join the festival.

He also invited everyone to come and join the festivities. “We invite you to visit your city, the summer capital of the country, this is your own home and we are just caretakers,” he said.