Behind Our Panagbenga’s Flowers


Like any Baguio resident, you have been witness to Panagbenga since it was launched in 1996 to become today a phenomenal attraction.

Like a Phoenix rising from the rubble of devastation wrought by the infamous killer earthquake in 1990, Panagbenga was the city’s clarion call to stand up from where she was brought down to her knees and fight back.

She did. And yearly, all roads lead to Baguio City, as thousand flock to this mountain city redoubt whenever it pays tribute to the “season of blooming,” for the very reason as there will always be a season to bud for the flowering.

There, at Baguio City Malcolm Square, the weather-beaten man stood and watched the floral parade of the 2019 Panagbenga celebration and pondered at the exquisite flower designs pass by.

“There’s language and poetry in flowers, and the season of blooming (Panagbenga) is the oratory of flowers,” he thought.

He sat on one side of the steps at Malcolm Square and smelled the air which wafted scents of flowers down Session Road. “Yes,” he murmured, flowers, indeed, have their language.”

And who dares say otherwise that flowers don’t speak a clear and intelligible language? Just ask any Cordilleran or Ilokana lady, and they will tell, “flowers have thoughts that lie too deep for tears.”

Or ask anyone for that matter who once held flowers in companionship. For the flowers speak, piety, affection and benevolence. Flowers form a principal feature in symbolical language, which is most ancient, as well as the most natural, of all languages.

And if one doesn’t think flowers don’t have poetry, well, now, listen, for it was said, “gentle flowers stooping over the wilderness; talked of humility, peace and love.”

Such then, friends, what barren spots have you, that the gentle flowers affect most. Couldn’t it be your heart, which the flowers stoop to and talk with, till your barren spot produce abundantly good thoughts and pure wishes?

This may be considered by some of our readers a fanciful theory, but then again, it has a good foundation for support, as many a hypothesis which has obtained universal approbation and credit.

When Mother Nature laughs, it may be said without metaphor that, in her thousand varieties of blooms, we see the sweetest of Nature’s smiles.

That through Nature’s smiles, we comprehend the exultation of her joys; And, that by them, Nature wafts her song of thanksgiving to the heaven above her, which repays her tribute of gratitude with looks of affectation.

No doubt then, flowers have their language. Theirs is an oratory, that speaks in perfumed silence, and there is passion, tenderness, and even the light-heartedness of humor in the multi-colored beauty of their vocabulary.

To the poetical mind, any flower is not mute to another flower. To the God-fearing, flowers are not mute to the Creator.

As the wizened man at Malcolm Square slowly digested his thoughts, it dawned on him that no spoken word can approach to the delicacy to be inferred from flowers seasonably offered, like that of Panagbenga, the softest impression conveyed without offense, and even profound grief soothed, at times when scornful voice grate harshly on the ear, and when the stricken spirit is quelled only by unbroken silence.

He could be wrong, yet the man at Malcom Square felt the mystical language of flowers, as applied to sentiment, appears to have seen its rise in the province of Benguet, where the Benguet Lily springs spontaneously from the native soil, and the wild roses fill with perfume and beauty alike the pine-studded mountains and hills.

He, too, remembered a visitor in 2017, when the foreigner said, “Friend, certainly, the influence of this land (Benguet) has been felt by flower varieties taken from other colder climes, and they survived, to delight us from time to time.”

“We have seen, and have become enamored of the delicate expression of, say, the tender rosebud, or any full-blown flower,” that foreigner added.

Sure, enough, we have seen what that foreigner had also seen in those flower emblems that never cease to convey some similar sentiments, wherever flower poetry is cultivated or delicacy understood in the season of blooming or Panagbenga.

As he looked around Malcolm Square, the remaining tree stands, the flowers planted there, it came to him language of flowers is no system of unmeaning similarity; there is a deeper significance attached to every plant, indeed to every object in nature.

There’s sentimental joy whenever Panagbenga’s flowers are shown on the streets and it made the man at Malcolm Square a little bit sentimental, too.

He pulled his ear because a voice was seemingly saying to his ear, “If the Almightiest speaks in the elements – like the winds, the rolling thunders, the waves, the day, the night – testifying to his awesome power, isn’t it so that the beautiful blossoms that adorn the forest and hills have voices?

Assuredly, flowers have voices. That being it is, let’s look at flowers then another way: not as mere decorations or symbols of false sentiments.

The weather-worn man shook his head from his reverie, rose from his seat and was about to leave Malcolm Square when someone who approached him at his back tickled his ear and said, Oy, Kurdapyo, anya araramidem ditoy Malcolm Square agmaymaysa nga kasla nag-uneg panpanonotem, ha?”

He swiveled around and to his surprise, saw Ms. _, a friend, (the lady is known in the city for her vocal support of   political candidates and it’s the stand of this column to engage in politics so we’ll just identify her as Ms. X) together with some of her companions.

Exchanging greetings, Ms. X said, “What were you thinking, here, alone, anyway, eh, Ah Kong?”

Ah playfully replied, “Was just thinking about the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees, the stars in the sky, and the moon up above. . .,” and stopped short when Ms. X also playfully kicked his shin and instead invited Ah for snacks in one of the restaurant near Malcolm Square. They went in.

Near a table where they sat, they heard one customer say to the waiter, “Waiter, maestro ka?

Waiter replied, “Hindi po Ma’am, haskul gradwet lang po.”

Customer said, “Ok lang yon. Maestro ka?”

Waiter said: “Di nga po, Ma’am, eh!”

Customer said,” Oh my goodness!  Paano ko mainom etong ___ (he mentioned a kind of beverage) kung walang estro?

Hearing misunderstanding between customer and waiter, Ah smiled and thought, “Better the flowers, they understand human talk.”

As they conversed, Ms. X talking animatedly about political what-not and what-is, Ah remembered the time Ms. X’s husband, (friend of Ah) angry of the way his wife Ms. X cooked, sent a txt message to his mother- in-law. The message said: Your product (daughter) isn’t cooking food properly.

The smart mother-in-law replied back in her message to her son-in-law, which said: Product sold; Warranty expired. Manufacturer (mother-in-law) not responsible!

Remembering the incident, Ah smiled. Ms. X saw the mischievous smile of Ah and asked, “Why you smiling when I’m serous talking about politics?”

“Malaglagip ko laeng diyay pinalabas tayo nga floral parade ti Panagbenga,” Ah lamely reasoned.

“Ayna, Ah Kong, di nak mamati diyay Panagbenga ti panpanonotem. Siguro adda manen nalagip mo panggep kenyak,” Ms. X said, pouting.

Ah allayed Ms. X’s suspicion by telling her if she ever looks at flowers, inhale their balmy freshness, look upon their beautiful hues, the spirit becomes invigorated, thoughts become more penetrating and minds strengthened for the work before us.

“Kasla Kuma nu agmisa tayo ket makita dagiti sabsabong idiay uneg ti simbaan, kasdiay ba, Ah Kong?” Ms. X asked good-humoredly.

Hearing his friend about churches and flowers, Ah thought of the time when he went to church and the priest, holding a bouquet of flowers said:

Priest: Sinumang tamaan nitong hawak ko na bulaklak ay makasalanan. Na-tense ang mga parishoners nang ihagis ni padi yong bulaklak. Subalit yong bulaklak bumalandra sa pader at si padi ang tinamaan.

Sabi ni padi: Oh parishoners, yon ay testing lang!

Ah left Ms. X and her companions, leaving them with the simple thought, “With freshest fragrance to sunrise greeting; therefore, are ye, season of blooming, so fleeting.”