These are the usual days when preparations are on the up, side leading to next month, when hearts go fluttering, when flowers are blossoming, when Baguio opens its heart and soul for another edition of Panagbenga, our city’s jewel of a contribution to festivals galore erupting all over the archipelago. Here in Baguio, it’s the usual days when frenzied efforts are several notches up to make the annual flower festival better than the last. How are we faring along?
Just a month ago, amid the holiday mood, Panagbenga’s launching program took off, with city officials and their private partners since 1996 linking shoulders to officially announce Panagbenga 2019. As usual, we were regaled by avowals of making the coming flower festival better than before, better than ever, under the canopied teamwork touted to be stronger than forever. As usual, it shall be all out and all in, as far as efforts are concerned.
But, let’s not be mesmerized by promises, for underneath aired avowals are undercurrent of protestations from both sides now, the public servants who were at the helm of festival activities and their private sectoral personalities who have accepted tasks volunteered since way back when. The tension went a notch up when supposed undermining activities were happening right under each other’s noses. Talk of a united front amid disuniting motivation and you’d guess open warfare is just around the corner. Talk of delayed submission of accounting and audited reports, and you’d know something is awfully wrong. Talk of unbridled interference in each other’s turf, and it’s just a matter of time when acrimonious allegations would again surface like pungent smell wafting from unclear pond waters.
Hats off to our grade school participants for acting seemingly unperturbed by their elders’ antics. Actually, they’re the genuine superstars who have given stellar performances year in and year out, enlivening every Panagbenga edition to the ear-splitting hurrahs of spectators. Truth to tell, they have always street-danced their way from Session Road all the way to the Athletic Bowl, going about their well-rehearsed routine in energetic gusto, giving extraordinary dynamism that only kids of their age can muster.
We can only hope that our elder leaders from both the public and private enclaves can still mend their ways towards the unity they have mightily professed. We can only implore that they smoothen out whatever inner differences hamper their and simply get themselves to serious tasking in their professional best. Nothing personal, just getting a job done as best they can.
Leadership after all is not just one man’s will over the others, especially so when non-government leaders are involved in so huge as a united undertaking as the flower festival. It’s all about consensus building, setting aside personal beliefs in favor of larger goals — that of giving not just the city but the country a festival ably managed on the strength of shared efforts. It’s all about partnership rooted on prior acceptance of each other’s role.
Burying the hatchet under the rug, not on each other’s back, is simply in order. There shouldn’t really be a serious concern. Government, after all, has the ability and resources to run the flowerfest to its fullest course. The business of management however is somewhat tricky when public and private leaders are harnessed as a single-minded force to enforce a singular policy goal; almost always personalities clash simply because of radically differing attitudes and obviously contrasting styles of going about the things that ought to be done in unison. We also have history to draw good, hard lessons from. Government has not demonstrated ample competence in managing entrepreneurial projects, as attested by how much strain the problem of proper waste disposal has afflicted our small community for decades now.
The way we see it, this year’s Panagbenga once more puts to a test the very mettle of government, its capacity to sustain the gains earned through hard-proven years of resiliency towards its private partners. More to the point, it should be able to demonstrate how strong the vaunted public-private partnership has been through the years, enough for the annual Panagbenga celebration to be adjudged nationally as the best managed festival hereabouts.
Success however is better measured, not in terms of revenue generated, but in the community acceptance that it can earn from all concerned sectors. Should the public-private partnership of a community-based program remain enduring, enough to outlast the momentary trials, then the Panagbenga will assuredly continue to flourish, regardless of a strategic reversal of roles when this time, as in last, public officials hold the helm. Words of acrimony may have been unleashed, but they are simply cheap arguments. Wounds of hurt may have developed, but if all these have been set aside for the greater cause of an enduring partnership, then the shift in management is merely just that, a shift that can only serve as a refreshing breather of sorts.
Lest we forget, Panagbenga should always be all about caring and sharing, between and among our own residents and the visitors we graciously host at this time of the year. It’s all about the precious environment that Baguio has in all its uniqueness, the very natural setting from which floral resources have grown in full splendor.
The richness of our natural wealth deserves to be eloquently showcased in all public exhibitions lined up throughout the month, from the Baguio Blooms unfolding a few days from now at Burnham Park to the Session Road in Bloom on the festival’s last week. Sundry household items and run-of-the mill dry goods — those that are daily available fare from the nearby public market — should have no place at all in such a revered setting. Products unique from other places, from North to South of the country, should in fact have a prominent exposure for local patronage.
We must be proud that once again, Culture and Creativity are interwoven into the festival thread of activities. Both core-ideas have long been the signature theme that has projected Panagbenga’s allure since this prime tourism event was first introduced in the mid-nineties. As part of the UN Creative Cities Network, Baguio has the splendid opportunity to showcase the wellspring of culture that has developed in a natural environment that we have, in harmony with each other despite the diversity each set of traditions has. Let there be an explosion of creatively-integrated cultural practices that must run through the festival month.
As in any endeavor, success will always have many fathers. But failure will make the begotten child a forgotten orphan no parent may adopt. It’s time our bickering partners realize this with each other, lest Panagbenga erupt into a hideous panorama of bruised egos and tottering pride.