BAGUIO CITY –Twenty nine of the 86 candidates in the Miss Universe contest, one of whom a half-Filipina representing New Zealand, including reigning title holder Pia Wurtzbach participated in a Panagbenga-like street dancing and flower float parade here on Wednesday.
The beauty contestants were atop flower-bedecked floats and were lustily cheered as the parade which started from Upper Session road, the city’s main street. winded up at the posh Baguio Country Club near Camp John Hay
“I’ve never seen such a wonder like this,” Sierra Bearchell, a law student, and runner who represents Canada in the beauty pageant, said.
Panagbenga is the Baguio Flower Festival, Philippine’s own version of the world-famous Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Chosen as an international festival, it is the most crowd-drawing event in the country, luring hundreds of thousands to the city every February.
“It is an honor that international beauties come in the city,” Mayor Mauricio Domogan said, adding that the usual Panagbenga parade route was shortened because of the time limitations.
Tania Pauline Dawson, 24, Miss New Zealand, traces her roots to Pangasinan and Baguio, where her mother Margarita Palabay Palenda, 54, met her future husband, a native of New Zealand. Margarita, along with friends, relatives and friends from her village of San Vicente in Sta, Maria, Pangasinan also lined the city streets in a show of support to her daughter.
Margarita described Tania, an actress, singer, teacher and model, as kind, industrious and smart. “She likes farming,” she said.Their family back in New Zealand owns a huge farm.
“As she grew up, I saw her potentials,” the doting mother said. “I encouraged her to join beauty contests because she’s beautiful and she will make it.”
Tania is also a supermodel in New Zealand. She was crowned Miss. New Zealand Universe in 2016.
“We’re very proud of her,” Mayor Domogan said, referring to Tania, who is also a music teacher.
The international beauties, not only had a brief glimpse of the culture of the highlands but also “tasted” it when they picked strawberry at the BCC strawberry fields at its 2012-born “green zone”. “We grow our own herbs,” beamed BCC general manager Anthony de Leon.
Photo by Thom Picana – Northbound Philippines News
De Leon is the President of the organizing association, Hotels and Restaurants Association of Baguio (HRAB), the private organization which shelled a hefty sum in hosting the event.
An arts and cultural exhibit at the BCC’s Cordillera Convention Hall preceded the parade of international beauties. It was prepared by Baguio solar painting artist Jordan Mang-osan and Baguio-bred national artist and international award-wining film-maker Kidlat Tahimik. Ace Alegre-northboundasia.com