Celebrating Panagbenga Festival: A look on the abundance of harvest, the festivity of the parade in catering variety of flowers, and how this festival became a tradition yet a tourist attraction.

by Aubregyn V. Ancheta

In 1995, the idea of organizing a flower festival in Baguio was first put forward to take advantage of the perfect weather and give tourists a reason to visit Baguio City between Christmas and Holy Week.

The Panagbenga Festival is a celebration of an abundant harvest in the country’s biggest producer of cut flowers, and has become one of the most colorful and most visited events in Northern Luzon in the first quarter of the year. The core events remain the same, including the signature parade of floats, street dancing and band competitions, Session Road in Bloom, and Market Encounter.

The Parade of Floats are the product of months of meticulous preparation by flower farms, the government, and private sectors, which showcase a stunning kaleidoscope of colors merged with intricate designs and the meticulous and amazing craftsmanship of Cordillera florists and hardworking flower farmers, who worked for several days to perfect their floats.

Another feature of Panagbenga which attracts visitors is Session Road in Bloom; the kilometer long road features stalls from different companies to showcase, sell, and promote their products. Most participants are food producers, handicraft makers, ready-towear clothing makers, souvenir makers, ornamental plant growers, agrochemical companies, and seed companies, to name a few.

Among  the participating seed companies were Known You Seed Philippines Inc., which showcased their fresh produce from Pangasinan to give visitors and locals a taste of lowland veggie goodness and let them appreciate beautiful Lisianthus flowers from Atok, Benguet, grown by Virginia Canol, and sunflowers from La Trinidad, Benguet, grown by Wilson Cayat. The Panagbenga also offers an opportunity to farmers to introduce their products to people coming from different places.

Freshly-picked sunflowers from Wilson Cayat’s farm in La Trinidad, Benguet.

Sunflowers, which are increasingly popular today, are usually tall annual or perennial plants that grow to a height of 300 centimeters (cm) and bear one or more wide flower heads with bright yellow ‘rays’ to sunny orange petals. Cayat was featured in Agriculture Magazine after he started planting the flowers. He continues to do so for he earns better from them than he did from the old crops that he used to plant. He plants Known You seed varieties: the Sunshine series Yellow with Black Center, Orange with Black Center, and the Orange with Green center.

Lisianthus are herbaceous annuals, growing to 15–60 cm tall, with bluish green, slightly succulent leaves. The flowers can grow up to 2-3 inches across and can be found in a variety of vibrant colors. Known You Seed offers shades of rose, purple, white, green, red, yellow, and blue. In addition, the company offers bicolored lisianthus, a mixture of white and violet.

These flowers are tricky to grow and require some maintenance. They have very tiny seeds and these must be planted in rich, well-drained soil. Once sprouted, they must be kept moist but not overwatered. Lisianthus are also considered as one of the most expensive flowers. At Panagbenga, they used to sell three pieces of it for ₱200. Florists fondly call them “paper roses” because when cut, Lisianthus flowers can last anywhere from two to three weeks in a vase.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2017 issue.