BAGUIO CITY (Jan. 26) — Amid reported a widening rift involving the city’s business sector, including that of the ambulant vendors believed to be perking up the underground economy, the city’s officials are confident the 2007 Panagbenga Flower Festival will push through smoothly.
“There’s just one problem with this year’s Panagbenga and that is the supply of flowers for the activities,” said Lawyer Damaso Bangaoet, the president of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. (BFFI) as he brushed aside the looming rift over the manner with which the Session Road in Bloom (SRIB) would be managed.
Whether or not to close Session Road sidewalks to pedestrians took center stage in this year’s SRIB. Panagbenga planners have thought of setting aside the sidewalks and install pavilions at the center island and part of the road, instead, but Session Road businesses opposed the idea asserting their right to their respective frontages as in the past stagings of Panagbenga.
SRIB, one of the highlights of the flower fest, was intended to showcase flowers, flowering plants and related items, according to businesswoman Edna Anton, as she questioned this year’s management allowing food establishments other than those in Session Road to put up pavilions for seven days.
Bangaoet said the SRIB controversy is only a small problem, but as this developed, Baguio Country Club Manager Anthony de Leon, chair of the Baguio Tourism Council and concurrently chair of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio City (HRAB) resigned from the tourism body apparently due to the rift, which city hall is trying to patch up. HRAB has earlier intended to manage SRIB 2007. De Leon refused to be interviewed for comments.
Even acting Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. is confident the 11th staging of the tourism booster flower festival would push through as planned, saying city officials only have to bite the bullet and dip their hands into the problem despite admission that the council has authorized the BFFI to manage the flower festival.
In the wake of de Leon’s resignation, Bautista on Thursday told Baguio media and the people of Baguio that the city government will see to it that the SRIB would definitely push through. Bangaoet, in a separate interview, made a similar pronouncement.
Bangaoet noted that the community (read: business sector) has overwhelmingly responded to the festival as shown in the number of entities participating in the float parade, another crowd-drawer to the city and the neighboring La Trinidad.
As of press time, 29 companies and groups have enlisted in the float parade, sending an alarm that Baguio and Benguet flower growers might run out of flowers for the floats, Bangaoet beamed.
Even contractors who would design and build floats would be asking their contacts outside of Baguio City to attend to the floats, Bangaoet said.
Meanwhile, in a joint executive-legislative meeting on Wednesday, the city finalized the venues of three major trade and cultural fairs, that of the Mindanao Bazaar , the Soroptimist International and the International Trade Fair. Imam Bedejim Abdullah, requested the vacant lot at Jose Abad Santos Drive, parking lot formerly controlled by Jadewell, instead of Children’s Park because of economic inviability. The Soroptimist group shall occupy the Ganza parking lot, also taken over from Jadewell, instead of the People’s Park as earlier requested. The International trade fair would be at the Children’s Park.
The councilors also approved the closing for street parties of a portion of Abanao Square on the evenings of February 24, March 2 and 3.
Meanwhile, the city’s attempt at clearing the public market and streets of ambulant vendors in time for the Panagbenga apparently hurts some 5,000 ambulant vendors in the city.
SRIB, for instance, shies away from the usual fares ambulant vendors sell and there are a many trade fairs during the Panagbenga.
Panagbenga opens with a parade on February 1 that would honor the men and women behind the scenes, according to Bangaoet, saying that it is just apt for the public to appreciate the people working to make the festivities work. He adds that there would be no frills in the opening parade and that the participants, to include traffic aides, security forces, communication groups, health and safety attendants, students, and secretariat volunteers, would be in their working clothes. # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS, with a report from Alden Marc Llanes