In 1995, the State-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) through its former vice president, the late lawyer Damaso Bangaoet, tried to come out with an event that will draw the influx of visitors to the city during the lean tourism months to sustain the descent tourist arrivals that will facilitate the growth of the local tourism industry which has been the source of income by businesses. True enough, the BCDA in coordination with the local officials and the city’s private sector, was able to decide to feature the locally grown flowers in a festival that will be done every February to guarantee the sustained influx of visitors in the city considering that the first few months of the year had been said to be lean tourism months in the city’s history.
The event was later named Panagbenga through the suggestion of Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan which is actually a Kankana-ey term for the blossoming of flowers. Further, the Panagbenga will be done every February which is in time for the blossoming of flowers that were planted in the different parts of the city and other towns of Benguet considering that the province is the major source of flowers being sold in Metro Manila and the lowlands during the peak seasons. February is the peak season of producing and selling flowers because of the celebration of the annual Valentine’s Day or it has been branded as the heart month. During the initial staging of the festival, it underwent various innovations until it was able to establish its identity as one of the most attended festivals in the country because of the key features of the festival whereby it projects the different flowers produced in the different localities through the grand streetdancing parade, the grand float parade and the market encounter.
Previously, the conduct of the festival was done through the solid partnership of the government and the private sector and further strengthened with the establishment of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. which played a major role in the evolution of the city’s premier crowd drawing event.
In 2003, the local government took over the management of the flower festival but with the support of the BFFFI. However, in 2005, the conduct of the festival was nearly sabotaged after former city officials decided to conduct a similar festival to that of the Panagbenga that caused confusion among residents and visitors. To save the integrity of the festival, the emerging local organizers spearheaded the conduct of the grand street dancing parade while the BFFFI was tasked to handle the grand float parade and the clear difference was evident.
For the past decade, the BFFFI was tasked to conduct and spearhead the staging of the month-long festival which saw its sustained growth through the years.
At present, the plan of the local government to takeover the management of the festival was again revived and based on an ordinance, the city will only appropriate P5 million for the conduct of the events lined up for the celebration.
We support the possible takeover of the local government of the city’s crowd-drawing event but it should still be done in close partnership with the BFFFI in recognition of the private sector’s valuable contribution to what the Panagbenga is known today in the international scene. Government cannot actually do it alone because of certain factors that will surely impede the smooth conduct of the events that will be lined up for the celebration.
The best thing to do is to allow government to handle the conduct of certain events while the private sector will be mandated to spearhead the conduct of certain events to uphold what had been time and again said as a government-supported and community-led festival. The bottom line why the issue on the takeover of the management of Panagbenga by the local government is the supposed mistrust of the local officials to the ones handling the flower festival. Political and personal differences should not be used by some city officials to discredit the good gains of the staging of the flower festival.
If there had been lapses in the conduct of the previous events and the alleged failure of the organizers to satisfy local legislators on the financial statements being submitted to them for the annual event, the matter should be settled among themselves because the issue had been time and again cropping up every after the conduct of the festival which has made it a rehashed issue and people are already tire of their petty bickering to put the matter in its proper perspective.
We believe there is a legitimate form for a financial statement that is accepted by concerned government regulatory agencies that is why the motive of the local legislative body to demand for the itemized expenditures from the organizers seems to be only confined to the festival organizers. We witnessed a recent hearing wherein organizers of the Ms. Baguio beauty pageant were required to present their financial statement and they complied using a similar format. When they were requested to present a detailed one, some of them inquired whether simple contributions like taxi fare of the organizers and food for them that were donated will be included but no one responded to the query.
Let us no impose double standard rules to those who are working hard to uplift the status of the city’s crowd drawing events. Instead, let us work together to save the gains of the flower festival and move it up to greater heights and not to pull it down for our own personal and political interests.