A silver anniversary calls for a big celebration, hence the organizers of the month-long Panagbenga Flower Festival in Baguio City, now in its 25th year, were certainly looking forward to their biggest ever staging.
But it seems the novel coronavirus is sparing nothing, including major events not only here in the Philippines but other parts of the world. And among the local events that has been severely affected is Panagbenga which is celebrating a toned-down version this year as Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong—after a long process of review with various stakeholders in the city—decided not to hold the crowd-drawing events for the first two weeks of the festival, including the grand opening day parade for the safety of the general public.
“It was a tough decision that considered everything—all the preparation and hard work that the organizers have put into this year’s event. But in the end, with so many uncertainties about the coronavirus, we came to this hard decision,” Mayor Magalong said during a press conference in the City of Pines on Jan. 31.
But should the situation improve, Mayor Magalong said, “we can proceed with the original plans for the last two weeks, including the grand street dance and the grand float parade on Feb. 29 and March 1.”
Definitely, the impact has been felt already by local hotels which have been suffering booking cancellations.
The Manor general manager Mon Cabrera shared that in three days’ time alone, his hotel saw bookings worth P1 million cancelled by foreign groups, “and to think that we were off to a very good start last January.”
“But then I believe Baguio will always be Baguio and we will recover from this,” said Cabrera.
On his part, Freddie Alquiros, president of the organizing Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc., emphasized that the festival is still a go as other festival attractions and events are pushing through as scheduled.
Ongoing events include the Baguio Blooms Exposition and the landscaping competition that features open, vertical, and carpet categories with entries found in different parts of the city including Burnham Park, Baguio City Hall, the public market, and Baguio Convention Center where the opening ceremonies took place after the early morning ecumenical prayer on Feb. 1.
“We are confident that the other activities will still happen as scheduled, including the Handog ng Panagbenga sa Pamilya Baguio, the kite flying competition, the cultural dance show, golf tournament, and of course the highlight events—the grand street dance and the float parade where we are looking at 22 to 25 participating floats,” said Alquiros.
Mayor Magalong in closing cited the fact that Baguio does not have a single case of the dreaded virus yet, and that “there will be no lockdown of our city, people can always come here and enjoy the environment, the cold weather, our local hospitality and culture.”
“We will recover for sure.”
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