Everybody knows the aphorism "There's no place like home" and when it comes to my hometown, Baguio City, I can't help but agree. There really is no other place like this. With its temperate climate, its regal pine trees, rich history and culture, and the collection of people from different backgrounds that come together--in my heart, it truly is one of a kind.
One of the greatest things about having this city as my hometown is being able to take part in the month-long annual celebration of Panagbenga - or the Flower Festival.
The said festival is truly one of the sources of pride of people from Baguio. A fairly young tradition, the Flower Festival was created in 1995 with the intent to institute a celebration that would embody the identity of the city and its citizens, and at the same time reflect the city's culture and heritage. It was also meant to attract tourists from all over the country to familiarize themselves with the city and its people. They chose to call the festival Panagbenga-- as a tribute to the early roots of the city - which means "season of blooming."
Panagbenga always begins with an opening parade wherein representatives from different groups in the city take part in. Marching bands from different schools in the city provide the beat that the parade follows, while people from government or business sectors flaunt their colorful costumes meant to embody the kaleidoscopic flowers that the city is commemorating.
After the official kick-off with the parade, several activities are held throughout the month. These include a parade of floats made by different establishments of the city, a trade fair, cheer dance competitions, and art exhibits.
One of my personal favorites is the Session Road in Bloom, where Baguio City "pedestrianizes" its main street to allow people to put up makeshift shops and outdoor cafes. It is also during this time where street parties are held and musical productions are staged in different locations within the street. It's a week of sheer festivity and merriment.
The Flower Festival is a wonderful time of the year in the city as there is such a wide array of activities available for everyone. Regardless of whether you're a student, a businessman, a woman or a man, a child or a grandfather, the city will have something for you during the celebration that will make you feel like you truly belong.
This is perhaps why it has become one of the most popular festivals in the Philippines. Tourists flock to the city within that one-month span (February of each year) to take part in our city's celebration of flowers and culture.
Panagbenga, with its colorful trimmings, spectacular fireworks, spirited street dances, and power to unite different people in the appreciation of the existence of Baguio City, is another reason for me to be proud of the city I am from. No matter where life leads me, this City of Pines will always be my home.