The Day before Panagbenga.
The best time to go up to Baguio is February-March, the season of Panagbenga. The worst time to go up to Baguio is February-March, when the city on a mountaintop turns into a traffic magnet just because all roads lead to the parks, gardens, and exhibition areas of Panagbenga, and yes, the prices of flowers shoot up like shooting stars (the one-day season of Valentine's does not help).
But Baguio is Baguio no matter the climate, the temperature, or the excuse. The last Panagbenga was 23rd in the city's history, as usual a grand and grandiose festival of flowers, floats, pretty girls, and movie stars. For tourists native and foreign, the phenomenon of Panagbenga is expressed in these words: "I want to see it again next year, I couldn't get enough this year!" The designers, stylists, participants, and exhibitors understand the sentiment all too well, for as one of them put it, "Every year our goal is to do better next time, every time. That being the case, how can the festival not get better, more colorful, grander year by year?"
From Feb. 1 to March 4, this year's attractions included 11 big flower floats, eight smaller ones, plus Hall of Famer Baguio Country Club with SM, NLEx Corp., and the city government; 27 dance groups joined by cultural dancers representing Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay, the so-called BLISTT area; and 11 drum and lyre groups competing for honors in the street dance and showdown at the Athletic Bowl.
Police went around reminding people to be safe (from pickpockets in particular), vigilant, and whenever possible, help reduce traffic jams by leaving their cars at home or in the hotel. Anyway, walking in Baguio can be a pleasant exercise. The author of the following article is a member of the pool of artists of the Manila Bulletin who doesn't mind exploring the city on foot; after all, he climbs mountains for a hobby, which may explain why "I had to be in Baguio" when the temperature dipped pleasurably to 11 degrees Celsius. As mountain climbers go--they climb because the mountain is there, even when the task appears to be a lonesome one--the secret was to be there one day ahead of the madding crowd.
By Bonn Erasmo
Which season is best to tour Baguio? When it's cold, or in summertime? If you're not afraid of massive crowds, you'd willingly wait for February or March for the famous flower festival, Panagbenga. I would say that Baguio the day before Panagbenga is best. The excitement, the anticipation, the festival fever minus the gridlock.
The day before millions of flowers will be gathered, when tourists and visitors are not trapped in traffic and they can still move around in comfort to explore the sights and compare landmarks. It's the day before the crowds obscure the mountain scenery, the rolling hills, and pretty cottages; the day before the visitor realizes that all he can see are floral floats and the heads of people, thousands and thousands of them.
What a surprise, to find that the Mines View Park of childhood is still looking good, and well maintained. From its observation deck tourists from near and far feel the chilly breeze as they behold the Cordillera mountains. At the entrance they are greeted with a garden of souvenirs, flowers growing in pots at affordable prices. Roses, dahlias, succulents, cactus, orchids, sky plants, pansies, hydrangeas and many more, and don't forget the fiery flower of the everlasting--umm, breathe in that soothing fragrance! Fresh from the garden like the bees that buzz and flit. Don't worry, they will not harm anyone.
When you have your Kodak moment, sit beside this one enormous Saint Bernard dog, it's fur so fluffy you just know he's ready to strike a pose like a celebrity. Feeling cold? He's willing and waiting to be hugged. At this time of year, temperatures average between 17 degrees Celsius by night and 21 degrees Celsius by day. The lowest was reported at 12 degrees Celsius on the first week of February.
Sweaters and jackets were cool even when the sun was shining at its peak. Fashion note: Available for rent, the native costumes of the Igorot were a hot item with Japanese and Korean visitors. The ladies gamely put them on for a selfie, momentarily forgetting that they were from the land of the kimono and the hanbok.
Last on our itinerary, the breathtaking view of Benguet's mine of gold and copper. A panorama of mountains, pine trees, an endless sky. Stop the world, feel the serenity. Listen to the wind, smell the air. You are there. Don't rush. Leave your worries for a moment. Give your smile to the other tourists when they look at you. Relax, for tomorrow is another day, the gloriously, densely crowded day of Panagbenga, when it blooms for the city and the city blooms for Panagbenga.