The Baguio Flower Festival popularly known as the Panagbenga was founded by old time residents of Baguio City, the country’s undisputed Summer Capital, purposely to help sustain the influx of visitors to the city with added attractions aside from enjoying the city’s unique weather condition. During the initial staging of the festival, which frankly was not so popular from the start, John Hay Poro Point Development Corporation (JPDC) lead the annual conduct of the festivities, aside from providing the funds that were used to bankroll the activities of the festival.
Panagbenga was used to name the festival because the festivities will be done in time for the blossoming of flowers. This annual flower festival was also anticipated by cutflower producers in the nearby towns of Benguet await because of the enormous demand of flowers to be used for the various flower-related contests that form part of the events lined up for the month-long festival.
In 2001, the local government took over from the JPDC the management of the flower festival but maintained that the same is a government-led and community-supported festival with the city infusing government funds for the festivities in addition to the solicitations from sponsors, and proceeds from the month-long market encounter previously done inside Camp John hay (CJH) but transferred to the Burnham Park skating rink and eventually the Burnham Park lake drive and other streets therein.
The conduct of 2005 edition was almost derailed due to some politicking of previous officials and the local government decided to return to the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. (BFFFI) the lead role in the management of Panagbenga. This was to ensure the orderly and smooth conduct of the activities and avoid unnecessary incidents that could compromise the staging of the city’s annual crowd-drawing event. For over a decade now, the conduct of the festival has been smooth which led to the inclusion of the Panagbenga in the International Festivals Association, the elite list of festivals in the different parts of the world. Further, Panagbenga had been gaining various national and international recognition because of the discipline displayed by the organizers and the people running the festival, as well as the public who witness the various events lined up for the purpose.
For this year, there seems to be an impending threat to the week-long conduct of the Session Road in Bloom because of the insistence of the Liga ng mga Barangays involved in the organization of the event by managing a portion of the Session Road in Bloom without allowing themselves to be covered by the guidelines imposed by the BFFFI for the major flower festival event. It is ironic that the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation (SKF), which has not even shown the value of the youth in the city’s affairs, is also demanding that they also be allotted stalls.
We strongly deplore these attempts of the Liga and SKF to trying to blackmail city officials and organizers of the festival to give in to their request to control the Session Road in Bloom. The acts of the leaders of the two groups are no longer in conformity with the standards of public service. Time and again repeat that they are not after the money but why are they so interested. The organizers already offered the Liga to provide P30,000 each to the city’s 128 barangays in recognition of the support of the barangays to the major events of the festival, but the groups still prefer to have stalls to manage.
Let us refresh our memories that when the Liga handled a portion of the Baguio Blooms Exposition and Exhibition and Session road in Bloom last year, the areas designated to the group virtually looked like a tiangge, aside from the fact that there was rampant subdivision of stalls which were sub-leased. The Liga submitted its audited financial statement in the conduct of the said events to the Panagbenga finance committee but the committee did not accept and questioned the credibility of their statement report.
The public must now start scrutinizing their city and barangay officials if their intention is really to serve. The dark side of the Panagbenga is that it taught most of our officials to be business-minded even if the same is not their line of service. Public service is public service and business is business.