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Panagbenga trailblazes tourism revival

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Hotel Okura Manila
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In photo: The much anticipated Baguio Flower Festival Panagbenga 2022 kicks off again two years after the pandemic.

By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios
Photos by Mau Victa/THEPHILBIZNEWS

With the reopening of the doors to the tourists by lifting travel restrictions and putting many cities to Alert Leve 1, the Philippines expects to increase the arrival of inbound tourists not to mention the local tourists who are raring to take a break after two years of restricted movements due to COVID-19.

Rise Philippine Tourism

In the summer capital of the Philippines, Baguio City officials and organizers launched a special edition of the prestigious annual Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga with high hopes of reviving the city and Cordillera’s tourism industry and recovering from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic to the economy.

With tourism as its main economic driver, Baguio suffered huge losses from the pandemic after closing its borders to tourists and travellers due to the series of lockdowns imposed to counter the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Baguio’s Burnham Park and the Boat ride is one of the activities that many tourists look forward to enjoy again

The closure led to the cancellation of the highly anticipated annual festival and a hiatus for two years in 2020 and 2021, leading to two seasons of blooming without the usual throngs of people lining up Session Road and enjoying the festivities scattered through the month of February.

With the theme “Let Hope Bloom”, Panagbenga’s special edition sailed away this year albeit in a scaled-down manner to inspire people to heal, unite, and celebrate their resilience.

The Panagbenga 2022 is a harbinger that the Cordillera tourism will once again rise and bloom again like the flowers that these young ladies carry

While the crowd-drawing and world-class grand street dancing and float parades are still cancelled this year, other traditional activities such as the open landscaping exhibit at Melvin Jones Burnham Park (March 6-27), Handog ng Panagbenga sa Pamilya Baguio (March 13), open dance competition (March 20), Session Road in Bloom (March 21-27), and Closing Fireworks Display (March 27) are in store throughout the month.

Jovita Ganongan, regional director of the Department of Tourism Cordillera, congratulated festival organizers, saying the reopening of the Panagbenga increases the confidence not just of travellers to visit the city and also of other tourist towns and provinces to also open again and restart their economy.

Cold climate, blue sky and lush green pine tress are what many tourists miss about Baguio

She said the festival reopening actually gives the signal that the city is already reopened to invite tourists to visit, which will greatly help the tourism stakeholders and workers who have no work for almost two years to also recover.

“Athough they have to evaluate their capacity to be able to conduct such events like Panagbenga. They should see their Covid-19 situation, their capacity for crowd control, and the like. Maybe they could benchmark from the guidelines being adopted by Baguio,” Ganongan said.   

She added while it is high time to revive the tourism industry, it should be done safely, responsibly, and sustainably under the new normal.

Meanwhile, The Manor Hotel General Manager Ramon Cabrera, speaking to THEPHILBIZNEWS said, “We are hopeful that this will continue. As we all know that many Filipino and even foreign tourists miss the City of Pines. We are ready and we will make sure that we are prepared to give them the memorable experience during their stay here with us in The Manor Hotel at Camp John Hay. And I am sure, our other colleagues in the industry and the establishments in Baguio City can say the same. Let’s support the local tourism industry and explore the beauty of our country. Let us not be strangers in our own native land. The Philippines is so beautiful and it’s time for us to appreciate what we offer to the world.”

Day or night, The Manor Hotel at Camp John Hay remains attracktive and a perfect place to enjoy your Baguio cacation.

When asked what preparations did The Manor Hotel do to make their guests’ stay unforgetabble, Cabrera said, “We implement health protocols and our guests last year when we opened up can attest to that. They feel safe, they enjoyed their favorite food, the smell of pine trees, as well as the fresh air and cold climate of Baqguio City.”

For his part, former Baguio mayor and congressman and BFFFI chairman for life Atty. Mauricio Domogan expressed gratitude for having the chance to come together once again after a two-year hiatus to celebrate the Panagbenga.

“Our gathering today opens the door for us to convey the message that our desire to express our gratitude for the gift of nature and the season of bloom and productivity will be not be deterred and affected,” Domogan said.

Traditional Igorot dance to celebrate the opening of Panagbenga 2022, two years after the pandemic

“And as our theme imparts, let hope bloom indeed let us not be discouraged, let us not be disheartened. Let the banner of hope fly high. Let hope bloom for there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and a rainbow after the rain. Together we shall overcome, we shall rise again, we shall bloom again,” he added.

For the organizer of the Panagbenga 2022, in the text message sent to THEPHILBIZNEWS by Anthony De Leon, Founder and President-Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio and General Manager of Baguio Country Club, he expressed his elation, gratitiude and optimism for being able to spearhead this first flower festival two years after the pandemic.

Baguio Country Club employees prepared this lovely garden in celebration of the 117th Baguio Country Club Anniversary and Baguio Flower Festival 2022

“We are proud to take the lead in bringing back our Flower festival for the City of Baguio. This is historic as it is the first festival to be conducted in the country in this time of the Pandemic. We hope to showcase this event to other regions so as for them to follow suit in holding their respective festivals as well and help in the national effort for the recovery of tourism,” De Leon said.

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