BAGUIO – Panagbenga is the biggest event in Baguio City and is one of the most popular festivals in the country.
It is also the only festival in the Philippines that is included in the International Festivals and Events Association, and the only one in the country that is not connected to religion. Panagbenga aims to boost Baguio’s tourism and flower industry after the city was hit by a devastating earthquake in 1990.
Panagbenga is a beautiful festival, but a lot of things could ruin your experience – heavy traffic, theft, and long queues, to name a few – so be prepared.
1. Walk if you can
Baguio was designed for only a few thousand people. During long weekends, holidays, and Panagbenga, the capacity of the city exceeds its limit.
You can explore the city on foot in around two hours or less, so walk to avoid the heavy traffic. Finding a parking space in the central business district is a pain, so just leave your cars in your hotel or accommodation.
2. Arrive early
Getting a good vantage point at the main thoroughfare is next to impossible if you are late, so make sure to be at the festival area before 7 a.m.
The parade starts at 8 a.m., and will pass by Session Road within 15 minutes.
3. Bring extra batteries, water, snacks
Bring your batteries and power banks as it will be hard for you to leave during the parade. Once you leave, you may not be able to get your spot back.
The parade may last until noon, so bring water and snacks. But don’t drink too much as going to the toilet through the thick crowd is a gargantuan task. Be sure to visit the loo before settling in your chosen vantage point.
4. Skip the umbrella
Wear hats and long-sleeved shirts so you’re protected from the sun during the festival.
Leave your umbrella as it will only block the view of other spectators.
5. Don’t wear jewelry
The popularity of Panagbenga also attracts thieves, so don’t wear expensive jewelry and secure your valuables.
Also, make sure to follow instructions from traffic officers so your experience will not be ruined by scolds from the crowd.
Panagbenga is not the only attraction of Baguio, which was recently declared a UNESCO Creative City, the first in the Philippines.
Visit art spots in the city and bring home a souvenir. The closest is the Pasa-Kalye street gallery located at the backstreet of T. Claudio Street near Session Road and Harrison Road. Have your portraits sketched by the artists, or choose from their numerous paintings.
Another art hub in the CBD is the Ili-Likha Artist Village located along Assumption Road. It has a treehouse food court decorated with art pieces from recycled materials. It also houses the Balanghai ni Ikeng Theatre, an indie film sanctuary and a multi-purpose hall.
Located at Km. 4 Asin Road is the BenCab Museum, which is owned by National Artist Ben Cabrera. The museum showcases art pieces from the region, as well as works of Cabrera and other promising artists.
The Tam-awan Village was also founded by Cabrera and it features several huts from the different provinces of the Cordillera. It has a cafe serving local coffee and tea and traditional dishes.
SHOPPING, SIGHTSEEING SPOTS
The night market is a popular place in Baguio to buy secondhand goods. Make sure to bring a flashlight to get a closer look at what you’re buying.
The market opens at 9 p.m., so secure your valuables as thieves may strike while you’re busy shopping.
Session Road closes after the Grand Float Parade, offering visitors some of the region’s products.
If you want strawberries, La Trinidad is only six kilometers away. But it may be crowded there so you may consider visiting a little-known strawberry farm in Barangay Sto. Tomas.
Not far from the La Trinidad strawberry farm is the flower garden of Bahong, La Trinidad, which is 30 to 60 minutes by car from Baguio. Another inspiring flower garden is the 24-hectare farm in Long Long.
There are a lot of food hubs in Baguio offering different cuisines.
The most popular here is Good Taste Restaurant which serves Chinese food, but it’s always full so you might want to go there during off-peak hours.
Other must-visit spots are Farmer’s Daughter which is next to Tam-Awan village, and the Ketchup Food Community restaurants that are all over the city.
Don’t miss the pork ribs, pizza, and burgers at Canto Bogchi Joint at Legarda Road; Indonesian and Malaysian dishes with a local touch at Rumah Sate across the Mansion House; Filipino food at the nearby Rancho Norte; Thai Food at Happy Tummy inside Porta Vaga Mall at Session Road; and vegetarian food at Oh My Gulay at La Azotea Building.
Health 100 and Health 101 along Magsaysay Road and General Luna also serve vegetarian food, but these restaurants have no parking spaces so be prepared to walk.
The following restaurants are also worth a visit: Hill Station at Casa Vallejo, Arca’s Yard, Café by the Ruins at Upper Session Road, and Sato’s Bar and Grille and Cowboytown Honky Tonk Bar at La Trinidad.