I WAS searching for “My Panagbenga” over the weekend, trying to find the magic it brought to my soul a decade ago. I call it “My” festival, to have some semblance of ownership, making the once
small community affair and now mammoth event, eternally personal….in a desperate attempt to hold on to a memory. I moved within the parade route during the weekend festivities, trying to bring back the magic of the flower festival which I had when it was starting, trying to find the giddy
excitement I had back then.

I stood silently as the Saint Louis University band played the Panagbenga Hymn, a sound I grew accustomed to, living near the home of its Maestro, who now plays his melodies for the angels. I watched as the parade of banners went by, recalling how, many years ago, I scrambled to make my own banner appreciating the artistry of a student, now an architect, who gave the festival its face, a visual identity forever etched in history.

I smiled as children sashayed the streets with their eyes filled with pride, wearing the colors of the
region, proudly, serenely with a distinct sense of belonging. I walked the streets, like I did for years, more out of duty to a profession than a love for the festival, but there are times that one contemplates if there is a difference anymore, still in search of “My Panagbenga.” I watched the crowd at the sidewalk with mixed emotions, some resented the freedom of movement I and most of the media team had, while some smiled and waved, in simple unison, for a moment of
celebration, proud to be part of a City in pride.

Did I find “My Panagbenga”? I saw it in the tourists, in their joy, looking at intricately designed floats carrying the freshest faces and children sashaying along the city’s main road. I felt happy for the businessmen; it is a time for creative renditions on how to generate a handful of profit with a deluge of products masked to be in theme with the festival. I felt proud of the government; Baguio takes center stage parading the colors of a City that has risen from the ashes of near extinction after the tragedy of the July 16 quake.

I saw it in the sacrifice of the residents, in allowing the world to take over their City for the month-long celebration. The festival is more than what you see, more than what you hear, it is more than what you read in the papers, more than what you eat, transcending the trappings of the visible, the festival is a celebration of life for a city that is in eternal bloom. From the simple community based festival, it has morphed into an event the nation watches. With reluctance, the ordinary resident has embracedall these for the love of a city.

The hymn of Macario Fronda will reverberate for years to come allowing reminiscing to be easier with the rhythmic flow of the beat, for generations to come Panagbenga will be the highlight of a city’s offering to the nation. Fronda’s opus will reign, making every Cordilleran proud to be a part of history. The idyllic spray of sunflowers made by Trisha Tabangin will survive the years of change, signaling the continued blossoming of a city. Did I find “My Panagbenga”? No. Because, I realized, I had to give it away. It cannot be mine alone. Now, it is ours.

Amianan Balita Ngayon