By Gael Hilotin for Yahoo! Travel
"Session Road is closed, we have to stop here!" the jeepney driver shouted in his mother tongue. I had no clue but when I realized I was the only one left inside the vehicle I picked up my bag and hurriedly walked with the rest of the passengers. The small city was mobbed by faceless crowds anticipating the float parade. I remember seeing spectators grow bigger as I approached Burnham Park.
Baguio City, the irrefutable "Summer Capital of the Philippines" is known for its strawberries, flowers, pine trees, local artists, and artsy cafes. The highland's cold climate makes it a favorite holiday destination of local tourists who wants to escape the heat in the lowland. Unfortunately, in 1990, the city suffered immensely from a destructive earthquake.
The desire to rebuild the devastated economy of the once flourishing tourist destination brought about the Panagbenga Festival. The name Panagbenga is actually a Kankana-ey term meaning "season in bloom." During this festival, Baguio city shines with flowers in bloom and other activities celebrating their cultural heritage. Panagbenga Festival eventually rose to fame and generated millions in tourism revenue.
One activity worth checking out is the Session Road in bloom, where the bustling Session Road is dotted with stalls selling the pride of many provinces in the Philippines, like native delicacies, cuisines, handicrafts and artworks.
Community activities are also held such as airsoft challenges, dart fests, dog shows, ramp model competitions and even muscle showdowns. A famous activity is the street dancing competition which is scheduled near the end of Panagbenga Festival. Street dancers flaunt iridescent headdresses and local costumes inspired by the ethnic tribes of the Cordilleras.
But the highlight of the event is the Grand Float Parade which is flocked by millions of tourists every year. The streets surrounding Burnham Park glows with elegantly designed floats made of multicolored flowers.
For many tourists, Panagbenga is just another lively Filipino festival, but for the people of Baguio, it is their way of preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of their beloved province. Panagbenga Festival is a testament that rising up from havoc is indeed possible.