The annual conduct of the Panagbenga or the Baguio Flower Festival has not been totally cancelled but has been indefinitely postponed following the emerging threat of the new variant of the dreaded Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and to allow the city to roll out the vaccine that will be made available from pharmaceutical companies.
Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong stated that the decision to postpone the conduct of the subdued events for this year’s flower festival was reached to allow the concerned government agencies, the city government and concerned stakeholders to assess the impact of the new variant of the virus in the city and to allow the implementation of the government’s vaccination program that is expected to start by the end of the first quarter.
Earlier, the city government and the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. (BFFFI), the city’s private partner in the conduct of the annual festival, lined up non-crowd drawing events supposedly for this year’s Panagbenga festival to help in gradually and safely reviving the local tourism industry.
The city chief executive said that the flower festival could be launched during the summer season depending on the outcome of the evaluation and assessment of experts on the extent of the infection of the new variant of the deadly virus and the initial results of the expected implementation of the vaccine that will be procured by the city and the ones that will be made available to the city by the national government and those that will be donated by the private sector.
According to him, the city is currently preparing for the arrival of the over 380,000 does of vaccines that it intends to purchase from Astra Zenica and its allocation from the vaccines that will be procured by the national government the city being one of the priority areas for the implementation of the government’s mass vaccination program.
He claimed that the re-scheduled conduct of the annual Panagbenga events is seen as one of the initial steps towards helping revive the local tourism industry which had been one of the city’s heavily impacted sectors following the implementation of the various levels of community quarantine over the past ten months purposely to contain the spread of the virus in the city.
Last year, the local government initially decided to postpone the conduct of the festival’s major crowd drawing events to the later part of March but the same was overtaken by events when President Rodrigo Duterte declared a Luzonwide lockdown on March 17, 2020 because of the threat of the first COVID variant to the different parts of the country.
The Panagbenga was conceptualized by the late Atty. Damaso Bangaoet sometime in 1995 when he was still serving as the vice president of the John Hay Poro Point Development corporation (JPDC), a former subsidiary of the State-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), to be a community event but it eventually evolved through the years as owner of the most popular crowd drawing events among the various local governments in the different parts of the country.
Subsequently, Panagbenga was included in the elite list of festivals under the auspices of the International Festivals and Events Association.
By Dexter A. See