Christmas in Baguio got off to a rousing start, a fitting follow through of the well-received kick-off launching held at the Rose Garden just a weekend ago, featuring no less than two world-class musical entertainers very much Pinoy — Bayanihan, The National Dance Company and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. To say the least, their performances regaled locals and visitors alike like no other Christmas event ever did in recent years.
What’s in store today to give An Enchanting Baguio Christmas the heart-warming opener for a 43-day festival that has been widely publicized in recent days as a Christmas present, not just for city folks like you and I and the rest of us, but for compatriots across the globe eager to be home for the Holidays, and tourists who desire to get immersed in a unique Christmas offering unlike any other?
The centerpiece is the iconic symbol of any Baguio Christmas — the pine tree seemingly in an upward thrust towards the skies, bedecked with natural plants (poinsettias) uniquely Baguio’s. City officials are set to switch on the re-created icon at the Session Road rotunda, signaling the city-wide lights up activity covering the major thoroughfares, the road islands, the pedestrian overpasses and vehicular flyover, and even the welcome arcs spread out in strategic access points.
As if on cue, all buildings sprawled across the premier roads shall commence their synchronized lights up ritual, expectedly even some dancing lights and fixtures that reflect their respective shared effort to spread Christmas cheer all around. What follows is the annual Louisian Christmas Lantern parade, a yearly spectacle that the community composing Saint Louis University has tirelessly strived to spruce up Christmastime.
This parade gets down at Session Road, from atop the rotunda, all the way to the Rose Garden in Burnham Park, where fun entertainment would have been scales up wowing the park goers. An anticipated Lights and Sounds Show will take place at center-stage to give city folks the magical dressup of an early evening chill. Synchronized fireworks display happens next in strategic cluster points, at SM, at Burnham Park and even in designated areas outside the Central Business District.
That, in a breeze, is how the early evening treat will unfold, hopefully a fitting follow-up of the magical nights you and I had last weekend by the enthralling performances of renowned Pinoy musical groups, for which we express boundless words of gratitude to the President of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Mr. Arsenio “Nick’ Lizaso, from whose auspices under his outreach program Baguio got a priceless Christmas gift.
Last weekend’s spectacle should hopefully bring home the sterling realization that festival tourism, like a Christmas celebration, deserves to receive the proverbial shot in the arm, especially for an industry that has had its share of downs in recent years. Festival tourism, once resuscitated from a creative platform — well-decorated, well-lighted, well-spruced parks and premises where we used to congregate and interact —can very well stand on its own as harbingers of good fortune.
Baguio is uniquely situated. Built like a valley cradled by mountain havens, our city seems to have taken for granted that the throngs of tourists coming up are principally due to Panagbenga and the Lenten Season. No sir and madam, it is Christmastime when they trip up, staying with us on extended days, and yes, spending precious dollars to make the cash register ring jubilantly.
Hopefully, when everything has been said and done with, we should be able to draw up medium and long-term plans for a sustainably developed tourism program anchored on instilling three basic practices: self-discipline for visitors to abide by local laws; self-sharing where visitors and residents alike get to exchange culture and traditions like brothers of a singular race; self-dispensing, where visitors are enticed to visit neighboring towns for a first-hand, up close and personal engagement with locally-established practices.
We’d like to say SALAMUCH to several sectors, principally to the City Government headed by the Baguio Tourism Council co-chair Mayor Benjie Magalong for the all-out support and encouragement; to our corporate and institutional sponsors for sharing a portion of corporate coffers for us to execute the creative ways of making Baguio Christmas truly enchanting; to our core-group of volunteers from RAB-V who gave precious time, talent, patience, and perseverance to keep the crowd under control and mindful of sanitation and hygienic needs; to our counterparts from various government offices (CEPMO, CBAO, GSO, CEO, the POSD, the Baguio Finest, the Baguio Bravest, the BWD and Beneco, among all others) for their yeoman work in delivering the basic infrastructure and supply requirements of our Christmas creations.
Finally, in behalf of the Baguio Tourism Council that I humbly head alongside vice-chair Anthony de Leon, co-chair Mayor Benjie, and all the directors, I thank the Execom members who certainly did a magnificent job in planning, creating, innovating, and executing what promises to be an experience worth sharing with everyone: An Enchanting Baguio Christmas.
About time indeed that something like this comes upon us.