Always, the Best in Us

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Now that our annual pride of fest is past us, it’s time to take stock of what we’ve done to make Panagbenga 2019 worth the heedful attention we’ve been according it since way way back. Too bad that this year’s celebratory event elicited more brickbats than hossanahs on the side issues, rather than on the consequential ones. That merits a deeper look-into in the days to come, not simply for the unmeriting distraction, but for the controversies generated when words disguised as mild outbursts just flew back and forth.

To our credit, our two centerpiece events hugged the national limelight— the Grand Street Dancing Parade held March 2 and the Grand Float Parade the next day. With nary a doubt, these successive festivities served as the very heart and soul of what everything has been all about in celebrating every Panagbenga festival. For two succeeding days, the world seemed to have revolved around Baguio. Time may have stood still, giving way to a city all roused up in a spirited display of verve, vivacity, and virtuoso unlike any other. By the power of the internet flashed worldwide on real time, the sights, sounds, and scenes of those days ricocheted into the living rooms of enthusiasts bonded by a common endearment: the universal love for something uniquely Pinoy in charm and allure.

At day’s end, we should be glad that Panagbenga is all about Baguio, as it has always been in the past, showcasing the energy, dynamism, and fervor of a community simply presenting a city garlanded in the best time of the year. That we pulled it through is as much everyone’s credit, from our grade schoolers who let it all out in a mighty showcase of youthful dynamism, all the way to the many unsung heroes and heroines who have worked hard and long to make Panagbenga 2018 possible, they who spent tireless days and nights for Baguio’s episodic festival to run its lovely course, they who minded less of the great ado that seems to malinger and hound every floralfest, and more of what it should take to bring the awaited events to glorious fruition. Just like the blossoming that comes at the most anxious moments.

The multitude of crowds that used to choke up our main roads may not be in the volume of spectators expected, but they were still huge by ordinary standards. As a result, traffic wasn’t too bad this time around to afflict both visitors and guests, except for the usual jammed points that have clogged up every vehicle converging and nearly colliding with one another. Where just the week earlier, bedlam seemed to have occurred just as easily in these jammed sections, this time, things were bearable, insufficient to let out the usual choice expletives. Our traffic enforcers just went about their selfless work to almost heroic levels, unaffected by tirades every now and then. Bless them, for exhibiting infinite patience.

As for the usual water lack at this time of the year, well, there just isn’t much of a well to draw the precious commodity from. Notwithstanding, we managed to brave it through. Water delivery went on merrily to upland places where the liquid is plainly scarce. Where they’re getting water has always been a wonderment, but okay let it come when badly in need, enough to satiate visitors’ needs, for something that no one wishes to be without it in a day.

Peace and order has been a stellar A-ok. Not much incidence of rowdy disturbances that would otherwise stamp a blemishing stain to an otherwise festive occasion. There was of course a nighttime report of a drunken brawl erupting in the usual watering holes that acquired sidelight attention to the festival events. Of course, brawls like these are a dime a dozen any good old time, but reporting it out in a seeming malicious connection to Panagbenga was just plain irresponsible.

We have said it time and again. Panagbenga has always been all about our vaunted sense of community solidarity, when everyone — residents and visitors alike —put up our prettiest profiles of unity, friendship, and goodwill. This has sustained the Panagbenga spirit that helped Baguio rise up anew as an attractive place to visit, to enjoy, and to experience. Good, pleasant memories are after all better embedded for recollection and replenishment.

Which makes us readily smile off whatever diatribes may have thrown our way all these years, no mean a scare-all tactic to dilute whatever lingering doubts there are about our city’s dying charm. Let it be said in all assertiveness: visiting Baguio has always been and will always be a Filipino dream, for families to savor the best that city life can offer from the caring cradle of its refreshing mountain scenery. This has historically been Baguio’s magical mystique, the very alluring magnet that lures in throngs of people into our pride of place, despite the many urban woes they’d be meeting every step of the way, even if they had brought these themselves in every memorable visit.

Lest we forget, it’s time to tell our festival managers: Please, enough of useless bickerings that are better threshed out in amity, civility and friendship. You have done well enough by your commitment to make Panagbenga what it has become today. Remind yourselves that it’s all about caring and sharing, between and among our own residents and the visitors we graciously host at this time of the year.

Perhaps, these simple lines will exhort you to come together as one unifying force. It’s all about the precious environment that Baguio is sharing in all its unequalled uniqueness, the very pristine natural setting from which floral resources have grown in full splendor, the very richness that we all wish to be preserved, nurtured, care for, regenerated from time to time, to be managed well enough simply for generations next to enjoy and bequeath to succeeding stewards. Please, enough of your public bickering. Just set aside petty animosities and get going towards sustaining the gains won hard to make Panagbenga a worthy festival everyone would love to be part of.

To our guests, next time you’re up here, walk the extra mile. Do enjoy Baguio on your feet. Feel Baguio at its finest moment — the mountains exploding in a myriad of colors, the roadside flowers erupting in cascading splendor, and of course the magical mystique of simple city folks in a wide-smile face-off with anyone they’d meet. Experience what communion with Mother Nature can do in uplifting weary souls, in liberating boxed-in perspectives, in seeing momentary wonders each time you take a step into the outside world of nature. Take in Baguio’s allure and be one in communion with the best there is in Baguio.

Once more, with joyful feeling: Happy Panagbenga to the world! It has been truly a Panagbenga like no other. A fusion of culture and creativity uniquely Baguio. Together, let’s take a humble bow, and in a repeat of what we’ve been doing since 1996, sway to the beat of Panagbenga.

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