Surviving Panagbenga : Parade Stories

The Panagbenga (Flower Festival) is annually celebrated by the Baguio people and guests from near and far away places. The Street Dance Parade and the Flower Float Parade are the highlights of the Festival where people, local and tourists alike, crowded the streets of the town.

si-look-prettyVisitors who come to Baguio during the Panagbenga season do not only want to feel and experience the cold weather, they also came to experience the culture. Watching the performances of the street dancers and the floats made of home-grown Benguet flowers during the parade, revealed them the skilled and artistic nature of the Cordillerans.

For the natives of Cordillera, watching the parades has been their chance to bring their family to town and watch the outputs of their fellow “Ka-iliyan” ( local term to refer a person or people from the same place of origin) showcasing their gift of artistic talent and creativity. This is a show of support and to share ones celebration of achievement.

Every year, a thousand of watchers spend time to see the parades. On this day, when bystanders fill the sidewalks of Session Road to witness the parade from beginning to end you have to secure a spot as early as 4am or earlier to have a better view of the parades. Coming to celebrate with the whole town would let you experience bad times before the fun.

The good news is that there are people from the grassroots in our community who saw the advantage of what seemed to be disadvantage for most of us wanting to enjoy the good times.

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When flowers are in bloom, it’s also a time for money in bloom. Flower vendors, producers and farmers sustain the local flower production market with them working day ’til night. Doing this would help them survive. Their survival is key to sustaining the city’s culture and economic treasure.

The Flower Festival provides local small-scale entrepreneurs from nearby provinces a great avenue to showcase their livelihood.  The vendors of “latag”, sweetcorn, fish crackers, and other “manglalako” used the event to offer their goods and products. This is a chance for them to grab an opportunity. Through the past years, accounts of these people had been kept and collected, and here is their story.

Latag: Your basic companion during parades in Session latag

“Dumarami ang mga tao ngayon sa Baguio. Kapag Panagbenga umaakyat kami para magbenta (The population of people now in Baguio increases. During Pangbenga we go up here to sell)”, says a vendor named Manag Cecilia who sells silver mats, or also known as latag, for the past three years already.

“Latag” vendors offer their product for those who need to join other watchers who spend the night on the streets. These people would stay until the morning of the parade. There are people who brought with them their own “sapin” (cover sheets) to sit on the floor. But the latag vendors are ready for those who do not bring with them any.

“Bumili na kami…[ng latag] naiwan kasi namin yung pang-latag naming. Buti nga may nagbebenta dito, (We had bought latag now because we left our own mat at home. Good thing there are some who sell here),” said Elmer Dittan a father and native of Benguet. He is with his family who bought latag to use during the parade.

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Latag is made of a sheet of silver foil. According to Manang Cecilia they get the material from Manila. They are unused material from factories for making billboard posters. Latag vendors sell them for 20 pesos where two to three persons can fit in one sheet.

Manang Cecilia shared that they were able to make 400php to 500php from selling latag. She came here with a group of other vendors from “baba” ( term used for places in the lowland) there are those who came from La Union, Pampanga and Tarlac. Their group would travel everyday for the week starting on the day of the Street Dance Parade until the closing on the first week of March. According to her, they also need to go back to their places to be at home. They will also get more stocks of the latag when they sell all of them during the parade. The following day, which would be the Flower Float Parade, is another day for them to increase their income.

How to crack boredom while waiting for the parade

Last year, Manong Rogelio Cerafico a Baguio resident, tried for the first time his business skills during Panagbenga. He was a laborer from Dominican Hill, Baguio City. He tried to see if there were opportunities for him to gain income by selling fish crackers to the crowd who were watching the parade. img_4103-2

The watchers, most of them who were probably at Session hours earlier before the time of the parade, might be hungry from skipping breakfast just to watch over for their reserved spot. And because they have to be early the snacks they brought with them might not be enough. To avoid going out from their spot, vendors had scattered to sell pica-pica snacks, and one of them is Manong Rogelio.

Just like Manang Cecilia, he would sell from the date of the Street Dance Parade. He would stroll along the streets of Baguio to sell fish crackers until the closing of the Festival.

He gets the one kilo pack of the fish cracker. He would repack them into a smaller packages and would sell them at 10 php. After the first hour of the parade, which started at 8:00am, he was already selling his second pack. “Kapag Panagbenga nauubos naman lahat ng paninda (During Panagbenga all my goods were sold out), he said. He has a friend who were already selling every year during Panagbenga. According to him they gain a profit of five hundred pesos to a maximum of one thousand pesos a day. “Sayang kasi yung dami ng tao ngayon, may mga turista, kaya marami bumibili ( The opportunity will get wasted, since there are tourists and there are many people now, many of them will buy).”

Some of his co-vendor sells candies, sweets, peanuts and other types of crackers. Their group purchase their goods from the Baguio City public market. Where they could get the goodies not lower than 500 per bulk packages. They would sell until all their goods were sold.

Sit Still, Look Pretty

As a first time vendor Manong Rogelio was very challenged to sell.  He would need to transfer from one place to another to sell all his fish crackers. He said, they could sell more if they were not watching out for the POSD’s (Public Order and Safety Division officers) of Baguio City. To both our advantage, while people kept still to reserved their spots to watch the parade, street vendors were running around to keep their source of livelihood. In this way watchers can buy food without leaving their position.

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Street Vendors are prohibited in Baguio City. But the only way for them to sell their goods is when they sell on the streets.

 

The past years the city became strict with street vendors. “Bawal kami maglako. Pag nag stay kami sa isang lugar mahuhuli kami. Kaya kailangan nagiikot-ikot kami ( Vendors are not allowed in streets. If we stay in one place we would get caught. We need to move around all the time),” says Manong Rogelio.

This also concerned Manong Alvin, a sweetcorn vendor. He was from Pangasinan and he had been selling corn in his hometown for living. “Dati kapag Panagbenga at may parade kumikita ako ng hanggang 4000. Pero ngayon mahirap makabenta kasi nanghuhuli na sila( POSD) (Many years ago, during Panagbenga and the parade I can gain up to 4000 pesos. But now it is difficult to sell because the POSD is after us).”

He also came with a group of corn vendors from Pangasinan. They can gain a total of 3000. One thousand of it would go for buying their materials. Manong Alvin gains more than his normal profit when selling in his hometown compared when selling during Panagbenga.

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Since 1977, when the Festival received a full pledge of support from the country’s Department of Tourism, Panagbenga also helped the city to gain economic advantages. One way to promote Baguio’s culture is through economic activities which has been established with the Session Road in Bloom, and the most recent development of the Market Encounter in Burnham Park which begins at the opening of the festival on the first week of February.

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These folks stayed at the end of the parade. No trace of mess and trash were left on the streets after everyone has gone.
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“Session Road/Walk of Lives” . With or without the major occasions, while commercial stands pops up during Panagbenga and advertising streamers comes and goes at session road, the begging business continues.
   (article  reference: Panagbenga Baguio City Official Website)

  

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