BAGUIO CITY—The Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. moved the major events of this year’s Panagbenga Festival to late March due to health concerns caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

The Grand Opening Parade on March 21 will kick off the events to be followed by the Cultural Dance Competition on March 22. The Grand Street Dance Parade and Grand Float Parade will follow on March 28 and March 29.

Session Road in Bloom will run from March 30 to April 5. Meanwhile, the officials scheduled Pony Boy’s Day on April 4 and the Closing Ceremonies and Grand Fireworks Display on April 5.

Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Tourism Cordillera Administrative Region (DOT-CAR) Jovita Ganongan said their office already coordinated with the city council in their decision to postpone some of the activities during Kapihan sa Baguio at the Baguio Blooms Exposition on February 12.

“We are one with the city government of Baguio, the local authorities in the decision to cancel major events because of the advisory of the DOH,” Ganongan said.

In line with the delay of the festival’s significant programs, Ganongan encouraged the tourism workforce to conduct and attend training on sustainable tourism for better services. She added that this might not be the best time for the industry. Still, the agency is expecting the typical situation of the tourism in Baguio once concerns on Covid-19 pass.

“This is the time that the people in the industry are not busy, so we scheduled some training about excellent services, how to improve facilities, and all of these activities,” Ganongan stated.

DOT CAR OIC-Director also discussed the importance of aesthetics as a primary aspect of landscaping, which is one of the major activities in the city during this season. She said that people could also incorporate the use of edible plants in their pieces in line with sustainable tourism.

“We come up with trainings for landscapers with the concept of ‘edible landscaping’ promoting sustainable tourism that we incorporated in the landscaping competition, in cooperation with the foundation. Also, we have coordinated with UP Los Baños since this is a new concept here in the Philippines,” Ganongan said.

On the other hand, upon the cancellation of crowd-drawing events in Baguio City last January 31, several adjustments were made by the city council, BFFFI, and other stakeholders of the whole celebration of Panagbenga Festival.

“Noong nalaman na may posibilidad na ma-move, mineet na ‘yung float makers regarding the possibility. Humingi kami ng series of meetings with the city council to have constant coordination,” Evangeline Payno, Chief-of-Staff of BFFFI said.

Payno also advised the participants for the float parade to temporarily hold their work upon updates on the new schedules of events. They suggested making the phase of their work slower, especially the process involved in the making of the structure of the floats.

Despite these adjustments on float-making competition, Mary Lou Galiste of Baguio Blooms and Session Road in Bloom meet their target. She revealed that the number of tenants for Baguio Blooms Exposition is smaller than those applied.

“There were 300 applicants for Baguio Blooms but when the scare broke out, hindi na nila tinuloy. We ended up at 80 participation only, and lately, we received 18 cancellations, that bring down the number to 62, 18 of which are landscapers,” Galiste explained.

She said that with only a few participants, they lobbied for an extension of the Baguio Blooms exposition in the city council. According to her, they will not require additional fees once the request is approved.

“We requested an extension until April 15 para mabigyan naman natin ng pagkakataon ang tenants who chose to stay and support this activity an opportunity to gain for their expenses,” Galiste said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Benjamin Magalong assured the continuous engagement of the city council and BFFFI with the organizers of several events scheduled for this year’s Panagbenga Festival.

“What is important is we continue to engage with the organizers making sure that they will undertake necessary measures that those who will come to Baguio will be properly screened,” Magalong said.

City officials of Baguio City also said in Kapihan sa Baguio last February 7 that they are doing all possible measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. They coordinated with different establishments for monitoring schemes. # nordis.net

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