BAGUIO CITY – The magnitude of the Panagbenga, popularly known as the Baguio Flower Festival and the longest running festival in the country today, will definitely help attract the influx of more tourists from the United States of America (USA) to visit the Summer Capital and add up to the robust growth of the local tourism industry, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said here Saturday.
Goldberg, who spoke in front of a mammoth crowd gathered at the Baguio Athletic Bowl for the grand street dancing parade, cited Filipinos and Americans have a long history to speak of ranging from struggle during the World War II hostilities and the eventual successful suppression of the Japanese forces and eventually to trade and commerce among others.
He said Baguio City has always been a home for the Americans outside Metro Manila because of the existence of the Ambassador’s Residence within the Camp John Hay (CJH) which was the former American military base and a historical site as it was the venue where Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, leader of the Japanese Imperial Army, signed his surrender to the allied forces on September 3, 1945.
“We are awed by the active participation of the people in the flower festival and the resourcefulness in making the flowers a true representation of friendship, unity, team works and solidarity among the local residents and visitors,” Goldberg said.
The US envoy pointed that, with the city’s cool and romantic weather, pine-scented air and scenic spots coupled with the annual conduct of the Flower Festival, foreign tourists, especially the Americans, will be enticed to visit the city and contribute in improving the growth of the local tourism industry.
He jokingly said that because of the city’s natural air conditioning, he might be spending more time in the city attending to important concerns rather than in the US Embassy in Metro Manila.
The grand street dancing parade last Saturday is one of the major highlights of the annual Panagbenga which is now on its 20th year where various contingents from the elementary, secondary, and college/open categories will compete by showcasing their indigenous dances with the inter-play of flowers and recyclable materials to remind the people of their individual responsibility to preserve and protect the environment.
Some nine elementary, four high school and three open category contingents joined this year’s finals for the grand street dancing competition that lasted for around three hours along the 7-kilonmeter parade route from Upper Session Road with its junction with South Drive, Loakan Road and Military Cut-off up to the Baguio Athletic Bowl.
Goldberg said he will inform Americans that the Panagbenga is a worthy festival to visit and that the city’s natural weather, peace-loving people, scenic spots and pine-scented air are add-ons to the beautiful attractions that they can visit around the city and the nearby province of Benguet.
The US ambassador expressed his gratitude to the people, officialdom and visitors of the city of Baguio for their warm welcome that contributed in making his stay in the city over the past several days a wonderful and fruitful one as he was able to strengthen the relationship of Americans and Filipinos through his mere presence in crowd-drawing events like this year’s Flower Festival.