By Marita Moaje
BAGUIO CITY – With over 50,000 visitors who flocked Baguio City to witness the return of the Panagbenga Festival, the Department of Tourism (DOT) teems with the hope that the City of Pines will lead the country towards post-pandemic recovery.
In a speech at the Burnham Park Grandstand after the grand float parade on Sunday, DOT Secretary Christina Frasco said that after a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic, indeed, Baguio is back.
“Panagbenga must continue to remain as a celebration of the season of blooming, a celebration of our rebirth from the pandemic period,” Frasco said.
“This festival inspires us that despite the dark times await a beautiful and colorful reckoning,” she added.
Frasco said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. himself envisions the tourism transformation of the Philippines.
Therefore, she said people can expect a whole-of-government approach in the development of tourism, not only in Baguio but in the rest of the regions well.
The Panagbenga Festival started as a community endeavor to help the city recover from the devastating effects of the magnitude 7.8 Luzon earthquake on July 16, 1990.
Started in 1996, the event has become a major tourism driver in northern Luzon and has evolved into a world-famous celebration.
Panagbenga means season of blooming.
“Baguio City has become a model city in the nation’s pandemic response and especially post-pandemic, showing how innovation, as well as close community development and cooperation, can truly make for a sustainable smart city. Congratulations,” Frasco said.
“The vigor with which you have developed the city as a community, uniting it to celebrate your culture and traditions, reflects your undying passion to promote Baguio as a haven for arts and culture,” she added.
Among DOT’s plans is the launching of the “Philippine Experience” project.
Frasco said the program aims to expose tourists not only to tourist destinations but also to the living and cultural traditions.
“Kasama na doon ‘yung mga festivals, mga pagkain at iba’t ibang (This includes the festivals, the food, and the different) aspects of the destination,” she said.
Moreover, Frasco said the DOT is working for the improvement of all aspects of connectivity, including land transportation, with the cooperation of local government units to improve the overall experience of going to tourism sites.
Meanwhile, Senator Imee Marcos, who was in Baguio for the event, said that with the Panagbenga Festival, things are looking up again.
“Last year, records were made, with 1.7 million tourists to a high of 2.5 million. Inaasahan ko sa taong ito lalampas na ng tatlong milyon ang bibisita pagkat kahapon kalahati lang ang dumating para manood ng Panagbenga. Ngayon nag-doble na (I am hopeful that we will exceed three million visitors because today [Sunday], Panagbenga visitors have already doubled its number as compared to yesterday [Saturday]),” Marcos said. (PNA)