Saturday, January 28, 2012

Panagbenga 2012: Schedules & Tips for a Hit and No Miss Flower Festival

Ahh! Bagiuo....its been a while.

Bagiuo has always been my refuge. An easy sanctuary from both the hustle and bustle of a hippie life and the scorching heat of cement, steel and sun. Though my genes contain 'city' in their transcript, i always miss the cool breezes of Bagiuo. Just a bus away, thanks to the hourly Victory Liner for the most part...and you're there.

So much for the musings. Now I believe everyone in the country, especially our visitors and people in the Metro should experience the Panagbenga at least twice in their lives.  Its Bagiuo at its best. 

Though the Panagbenga is formally launched around November of each year, the culmination held every last weekend of February is always a sight to see and an experience to remember. Now, if you are itching to get your feet up in Bagiuo for a flowery treat, then take note of the Schedule: 
Panagbenga 2012 Launch and Concert: November 14, 2011
Panagbenga Opening Parade: February 1, 2012
Market Encounter: February 1 to March 4, 2012
Let a Thousand Flower Bloom: February 11, 2012
Handog ng Panagbenga sa Bagiuo: February 12, 2012
Fluvial Float Parade: February 12, 2012
Ipitik Festival: February 17-20, 2012
Chinese Spring Festival: February 21, 2012
Grand Street Dancing Parade: February 25, 2012
Grand Float Parade: February 26, 2012
Session Road in Bloom: February 27 to March 4, 2012
Pony Boy's Day: March 2, 2012
Panagbenga Closing Ceremonies and Grand Fireworks Display: March 4, 2012

In planning for Panagbenga, the best thing is always planning ahead...way, way ahead. I mean, by December you should already be booking a hotel, your bus ticket going to Bagiuo AND your trip home. Its a must, 'coz when you're there, it seems like the whole country is gathered there for a feast.  In looking for a hotel, book the ones near session road. It's where all the action will be. I'm so sorry I don't have a list and the numbers, but next time i will. But the net has everything, try searching for Bagiuo hotels, all of them sure are advertising early.

Although it would be grand to see the celebration through and through, us busybodies just have to work. But if you need to choose the days, then choose well. I'd recommend concentrating on the Grand Streetdance to the Grand Float Parades. Those two made Panagbenga famous. If it would not hurt to use a couple more sick leaves, then extending your stay up to the Closing and Fireworks would be much more satisfying.  BUT, dont miss the market encounter! there you can find Bagiuo's best products for the taking!

But the Market Encounter is not located at the Central Market. Its around Burnham Park, behind it, least last year Its not free too. There will be an entrance fee .... uhm, i forgot now how much it was, but its rather cheap like a 10 or 20.  But the things you will find there are endless. Just make sure you can carry'em all back. The things i can't live without while there?  strawberries and Sagada oranges!
Vegetables too are a hit. They're all fresh as can be. From the green leafy ones to the root crops of all sizes and colors. From the ones you are most familiar, to those you'll swear you see for the first time (true in my case!).  If only I have a trailer, and a walk-in fridge, then i'll buy a ton.
OH! before I dwell in my reveries of food and shopping, I need to tell you about the Parade.  Well, the common tale you'll hear from one who've been to Panagbenga and back is the waiting-since-dawn routine. Well, it's true. Some even sleep in tents just to secure a place somewhere in the pavement stretch of Session Road where the parade will pass. The parade will start around 8 am, but you will still manage to squeeze through people if you'll be there at 6 am. Yup, the earlier the better. So remember:

1. Be early, earlier than 6 am is good
2. Scout the day before along session road for a good vantage point, both to see above the heads and to take pictures.  The session road is long, if you can manage to secure a sweet spot in front of the PLDT, then that's the best place. Otherwise, get on the footbridge or travel upstream (past SM City going to Victory Liner Station) where the assembly starts.
3. Bring newspapers or something you can sit on. the parade will last for at least 3-4 hours so your knees will need some break
4. Bring snacks, even if you plan to take a very heavy breakfast. You don't want to be fainting while the parade is still on, your friends will hate you.
5. Protection from cold is standard enough. BUT bring sunscreen. Yup, sunscreen. I really got pink cheeks and they're not from the 2 kilos of strawberries I ate.
6. Water. With too many people, and the parade being magical, there isn't just time to get out of line to buy water. Although you can risk your health and buy the ones sold in the streets. 
Now there! that just about sums up what I know will make your flower festival festive.  If you are a photographer, its always best to get an accreditation from the organizer so you can roam around like Gods! ha! but decent pictures can still be taken if you are early enough to get at least a front seat...I mean, pavement.  Also, the grounds where the competition will be held offers a lot of photo opportunities since the streetdancers shall all be lined up there waiting for their turn to compete. Just don't forget to ask very nicely if you want them to pose. They are also tired you know, especially the kids.  
If you want to watch the competition, the grandstand is a lot of space. But the really good spots are reserved for the VIPs, as always.  That's where photographers reign supreme. But you can always squeeze in to get a good look. Another mental note: bring your telephoto lens! chances are, you'll need them badly.  Have a fast lunch, then scurry down to the Quirino (?) Area for a nice front seat. I still dont know what that area is called. I'll ask a friend.
It's always fulfilling to experience Panagbenga. Now, are you all locked and loaded ready for a swing? But remember, after enjoying the full colors of the flowers in bloom, ogling innocently at the graceful dancers of the parade, please dont forget to pick up your trash. Even if Baguio City is also known for its sturdy 'walis tambo', leaving no trash behind completes one happy journey. Always does.

So c'mon, pack your gears and let's go up north this coming February.

For a good look of what happened last year at Panagbenga 2011, look here:
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