There are a lot of festivals in the Philippines. A trip to this archipelagic country in the Pacific promises a year-round celebration of culture and heritage. However, when it comes to color, dance and vibe, nothing compares to the Panagbenga Festival of Baguio City.
City of Baguio
Baguio, officially the City of Baguio, often referred to as Baguio City, is a highly urbanized city located in the province of Benguet in northern Luzon Island of the Philippines. Baguio is situated at an altitude of approximately 1,540 meters (5,050 feet) in the Luzon tropical pine forests ecoregion. Baguio city has become the center of business and commerce as well as the center of education in Northern Luzon. Baguio City had a 2010 population of 318,676.
Tribute to the City's Flowers
The Panagbenga festival was created as a tribute to the city's flowers. It was a way to rise from the devastation of the 1990 Luzon earthquake. The festival includes floats that are covered mostly with flowers similar those used in Pasadena's Rose Parade. It also includes street dancing by dancers clad in flower-inspired costumes. The dance is inspired by the Bendian, an Ibaloi dance of celebration that came from the Cordillera region.
Season of Blossoming
Panagbenga, a tribal word for a season of blossoming, is derived from the indigenous tribe Kankana-ey. Literally thousands of people are drawn to Panagbenga every year to enjoy fascinating floats covered with flowers of different shapes, texture, and scent, and beautiful performances presented by dancers clad in flower-inspired costumes. The choreography and production feels like the Philippines' answer to California's Rose Parade.
From Manila, the road trip to Baguio City usually takes four to five hours, and less at night due to reduced vehicular traffic. Baguio is coldest from November to February when the temperature drops to as low as 15 degree centigrade, in stark contrast to the tropical weather outside this mountain lodge. This is perfect for the month-long annual flower festival that takes place during the month of February!
First Day of February Parade
An opening parade on the first day of February marks the beginning of the celebration. Usually held at Session Road and Melvin Jones Grounds, grade school kids troop to the streets to cheer for their drum and lyre band contingents.
A Cacao, a traditional two-person dance, is also undertaken to kick-off the occasion. In this dance, the men hang blankets usually woven with an indigenous pattern over each shoulder while the woman wraps a single similar blanket around her. They dance in a circle with a hop-skip tempo to the beat of sticks and gongs.
Burnham Park, named after the American architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham, is transformed into an open bazaar from the first Saturday of February until the first Sunday of March. Not only will you get a chance to buy locally-made strawberry jam and indigenous crafts, this wide green space offers various facilities for recreation and relaxation. Go biking, have a picnic, and enjoy the incomparable hospitality of the locals.
The last weekend of February is usually reserved for the parade, the street dancing competition and the float and marching band competition. A shower of rose petals greets visitors from all over as if inviting them to join in for an unforgettable stroll. You will not find any place in the Philippines with a wider array of flowers!
Massive Floats like moving Gardens
At this time of the year, Baguio (which is also called the City of Pines!) becomes a potpourri of sweet fragrance from the flower fury. The massive floats are moving gardens of joy. The city literally becomes one overflowing basket of flowers with roses of different hues, golden mums, birds of paradise, carnations, geraniums, orchids and tulips in it! Even fresh vegetables are on display. There is no need to be shy at the Panagbenga Festival. Here everyone happens to be in a great friendly mood!
The closing ceremony is held on the first Sunday of March. The event showcases musical performances and a fireworks display. Baguio City may be the coldest place in the Philippines, but its Panagbenga Festival is definitely the country's hottest.
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