Taking inspiration from Pasadena’s “The Rose Parade,” Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival is held not in honor of some saint or legend but pays tribute to the city’s beautiful blooms.
A historian and museum curator, Ike Picpican, named the festival Panagbenga, a word in the local Kankanaey dialect that refers to a season of blossoming.
For a city that has been through so much, the Panagbenga takes on a special significance as it also means the blooming of an idea or vision for hope, revival, unity, and growth.
Father of Panagbenga
Baguio’s crowd-drawing flower festival was conceptualized in 1995 by a man they now call the Father of Panagbenga, Atty. Damaso Bangaoet Jr.
The city was still reeling from a killer quake that left it in rubbles in 1990. The Panagbenga Festival gave people hope for a brighter future.
Bangaoet, who was then the head of the John Hay-Poro Point Development Corporation (JPDC), presented his idea to the board of directors and it was immediately approved. JPDC allocated funds to help bring it about.
Like its wild sunflower emblem, the Panagbenga Festival continues to blossom year after year.
The people of Baguio and visitors to the summer capital took to the flower-inspired festival as it doesn’t trample on cultural practices or beliefs and divide tribes.
What the celebration does is promote local culture and unite a Baguio of diverse ethnic backgrounds behind a festival it can consider its own.
Bangaoet cooked up the festival to draw more tourists to Baguio on a February, which is considered a lean season for travel.
The Panagbenga Festival has grown to become one of Baguio’s biggest tourism attractions some 20 years since it was first conceptualized.
One of the highlights of the month-long celebration is the Floral Parade, which happens on a seven-kilometer stretch of street and involves groups of dancers garbed in flowery costumes performing the Bendian dance.
The biggest draw of the Panagbenga Festival, however, is the Grand Float Parade. During this event, Baguio highlights its artistry in the flower float creations that glide through the streets.