Bets keep low profile during Baguio’s main festival

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BAGUIO has been staging the Flower Festival for 18 years now, and despite the evolving pomp and pageantry, volunteers and participants manage to retain the colors and vibrance of the upland Cordilleras. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

BAGUIO CITY—Major roads were closed to traffic and almost every street vendor had something to sell on Saturday at the grand street dancing of this year’s Baguio Flower Festival, popularly known as Panagbenga.

But no candidates made themselves visible here, heeding the request of the organizers that the 18th staging of the festival be kept apolitical.

Anthony de Leon, festival cochair, said a party-list group tried to strap campaign flyers on festival banners, but volunteers quickly removed these before the parade.

This morning, before the float parade, senatorial candidate Teodoro Casiño is scheduled to lead a promotional run along downtown Session Road.

De Leon said no political candidate had expressed any intention to participate in the festival events “because they know it was not allowed, and that we are campaigning against political campaigning.”

Students from Baguio elementary and high schools were joined in the street dancing by high school students from Kalinga, Apayao, Benguet, Pangasinan and Nueva Vizcaya.

Laurel Bangaoet, chair of the Baguio Cultural Society, said the festival retained the Cordillera vibe and had imposed a “No-Gangnam” performance for dancers during the street dancing competition. Gangnam is the K-pop single popularized by Korean musician Psy. It was, however, played by the Philippine Military Academy band, which was not competing.

Students of Pines City National High School performed a simulated Ifugao ritual called “Ulin,” which is done to drive away farmland pests.

Tsinakhon Cultural Ensemble of Saint Louis University Laboratory High School performed a “Tsinakhon,” which is a choreographed rendition of life in Bontoc, Mt. Province, during the dry season.

Marceline Clemente, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, said Panagbenga had made a mark on international tourism.

“The contribution that it gives the country is enormous. Everybody’s saying that the development of a country depends on tourism, and Baguio is a pioneer, it spearheaded [the flower festival],” she said.

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