Folks down under have been asking when Panagbenga’s centerpiece events — the Grand Street-Dancing Parade and the Grand Float Parade — will take place this year. Of course, they’re coming up and gearing up to make their brief 2-day sojourn as exhilarating as before. It’s on March 2 and 3, I simply said. No longer this February? How come?
Till then, I didn’t know how much preparations they’ve been doing, just to be up here for the Big Events that Panagbenga has been known for, which have always been on the third weekend of the month. That they’re now being programmed next month — yes, no longer in February, dearie — must have been a shocker for them, sensing that if they’re here by March 2 and 3, they must be sorting out schedules planned since way way back. Too much to do and re-do with too little time?
Which makes sense now to ask: why the change? Why move it further forward? As the old saying goes, why fix it when there’s nothing wrong? Is this choice a spill-over effect of the lingering fallout between and among our Panagbenga elders, they who have been wrangling all year long over bruised egos and hurt pride?
By now, everyone seems on hold-your-breath excitement, anxiously awaiting March 2 and 3, when Panagbenga’s legendary events unfold before the world, once more regaling everyone under the canopy of our mystic charm. Since February 1, when the launching parade took place, all the other intertwining activities have been taking center-stage, the Baguio Blooms exposition (formerly known as Market Encounter) bannering all the others, not just as the stellar attraction, but sadly as the cornerstone of the controversy that blossomed right out these past two weeks, among our city officials.
To say the least, the controversy involved the use of Burnham Park’s skating rink area for trade fair purposes, something that has been allowed, then disallowed, then allowed subject to conditions all through the years. Last heard, Hizzoner who’s chairperson of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation (the city government’s private partner) has opted to transfer the activity to the Ganza parking lot. We’d know by Monday if the City Council would now relent in their vociferous all-or-nothing stance of prohibiting trade fairs anywhere at Burnham Park. It’s a standoff that just doesn’t sit well with anyone who can only wish that government officials and their private partners settle their differences the way matured men and women do so — among themselves, and done in the true spirit of partnership that Panagbenga is all about.
Lest we have forgotten, the Panagbenga festival has been a source of all-out pride for us all since it was first launched in the middle nineties of the past century. There has always been a good time and a proper place for us to dwell on issues that have always been somewhat of a blemish in its annual staging year after year. For everyone’s sake, these are just issues that should have been threshed out in as amicable a way as possible, given the solid foundation of good faith that we hear every now and then between and among the two sectors. Surely, these are issues that every well-meaning citizen of Baguio will always find simply inexplicable had there been a stronger sense of trust all around.
At this time, here we are hearing of hurtful words being hurled from all corners, words that merit nothing but brickbats of their own. Couldn’t we even hold back and let the festival activities run their course? Couldn’t we even rein in whatever misgivings and disappointments we’re having, couldn’t we be less judgmental and do away with acrimonious feelings, this time as citizens of a single-minded community resilient enough to withstand challenges, strong enough to cast aside petty differences, united enough to strive together for the larger cause of upholding what has always been Baguio’s uppermost welfare?
By all standards, let Panagbenga get on with its merry march, all the way beyond March. By all means possible, let the flowerfest earn its usual way to success. Give everyone — those serving their leadership roles and those imbued with a passion to serve, regardless of the supporting functions that may have been their assigned task this year — every opportunity to achieve the same established winning ways that Panagbenga has always been.
Indeed, managing a festival that has become the nation’s best run festival is no walk in the park, given the many kinks that have to be harnessed wisely towards a larger goal. Managing a festival is managing men and women of varied persuasions who are one with each other in vision. Personalities will certainly have differences. Attitudes are representative of where one is coming from, and these are difference points of origin. The best thing that anyone can do, especially for observers watching from the sidelines, is to do just that, be by the sidelines, cheering every single triumphant act, ruing every single mistake done on good faith.
Finally, let it be resonated that, Panagbenga is all about caring and sharing, between and among our own residents and the visitors we graciously host at this time of the year. It’s all about the precious environment that Baguio has in all its uniqueness, the very natural setting from which floral resources have grown in full splendor, the very attribute that we all wish to be preserved, nurtured, care for, and managed well for generations next to enjoy and bequeath to caring heirs.
Let our guests experience Baguio at this time of the year. Let them feel the graciousness of our hospitality as expressed in so many ways in so less a time when here. Let them breathe in the richness of our natural environmental wealth as eloquently showcased in all public exhibitions lined up throughout the Panagbenga season. To be sure, we all want Panagbenga 2019 to succeed and serve as another example of the finest public-private enterprise ever. Let no one get in the way as we do just that. Let everyone clasp each other’s hand in enduring friendship like there’s no tomorrow.
This time, let us give a hearty yell-out for the world to hear: Be one with us in Baguio. And be the best too while loving this city the way we do.