BAD TRIP: PANAGBENGA FLOWER FESTIVAL 2010

The Panagbenga Flower Festival 2010 was one of the most poorly organized and executed festivals I have attended. There were few contingents, most street dancers looked unenthusiastic (It was a challenge to find a performer smiling – a rarity for Philippine festivals!) and, to top it off, we encountered a chief festival organizer who was extremely rude.

On the untoward incident, I have sent out this open letter to the Panagbenga Secretariat, Baguio Convention and Visitors Bureau (BCVB), Baguio City Government and officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Apparently our incident with Panagbenga Chief of Staff Amboy Guevara (or Guevarra?) is not an isolated case. In response to this letter, I have received emails expressing the mismanagement of the Panagbenga Festival in recent years, and recounting similar untoward incidents with the festival organizers. Some of which will hopefully be resolved by legal means.

March 4, 2010

PANAGBENGA 2010 INCIDENT: AN OPEN LETTER

Dear Panagbenga Secretariat, BCVB and DOT,

I am a freelance travel writer who attended the Panagbenga Festival 2010 celebrations in Baguio City last weekend with my mom and a family friend, who both flew in from Cebu to enjoy the festivities. My family and I have enjoyed visiting Baguio for almost two decades, but it was our first time to attend the festival. We were looking forward to having a great weekend in the city we’ve always enjoyed exploring for years.

Unfortunately, last weekend was one of the worst trips we ever had, owing significantly to how Baguio Convention and Visitors Bureau (BCVB) executive director and Panagbenga 2010 Chief of Staff, Mr. Dangal “Amboy” Guevarra, Jr. reacted to our expressed concern over the disorganized public viewing of the parade floats last Sunday (Feb. 28).

This letter seeks to file a complaint, clearly share the incident, and share my opinions and feelings on what transpired. I hope this letter– which I am sending to several organizations that I think can properly address and learn from the issue– will not be met with the same insolence and discourtesy we experienced last weekend. Kindly allow me to recount the incident to the best of my memory.

Last Sunday, the float parade culminated at the Athletic Bowl. The crowds were looking forward to seeing the floats up close after the parade. As the celebrations for the day drew to a close, the emcee onstage announced that media personnel will be given only “30 minutes” to view and document the floats before the general public will be allowed to enter the cordoned-off area. Naturally, crowds immediately rushed to the center of the green oval where the floats were parked and cordoned off, eagerly awaiting the public viewing.

After more than an hour, the cordons were still not opened to the public. The crowds waiting under the hot sun quickly grew frustrated. Many locals and tourists (my mom and myself included) were asking the policemen for clear updates on the situation, and requesting that a public advisory be announced onstage in order to manage people’s expectations. Several overseeing policemen we spoke with had no idea when the cordons will really be opened. It seemed they had no clear communication system put in place to coordinate with the organizers onstage. No further announcements were publicly announced to manage the aggravated crowd, who were already verbalizing their disappointments.

The policemen (and even some people in the crowd) suggested that we speak up, and forward our concern on the disorganized public viewing of the floats to the people in charge onstage. We went to the stage, and approached a group of seated individuals who turned out to be judges of the event. They directed us to speak with the festival officials.

We approached a man who identified himself as Amboy Guevara, and we voiced out our observations on the situation. Our feedback was met with arrogance, impatience and utter rudeness, as he boasted how he has to attend to “millions of people” and how they’ve been organizing the event for the past 15 years already. We were not by all means seeking special treatment, neither were we looking for trouble. He then threatened that my mom and I be “escorted” by guards out of the area, if we persisted. He turned his back on us, and returned to his seat.

We were appalled by Mr. Guevara’s unexpected ill-mannered reception, so I decided to take snapshot of him so we can document who he was. He was irritated by this, and barged back, fumbling on his DSLR to take a shot of me as well. Accidentally, my camera was on video mode, and the incident was partially captured on video. He grabbed my camera to stop me from taking more pictures.

He proceeded by attempting to publicly put us to shame. In a threatening manner, he asked for our names, and began challenging me and my mother “to make a scene”. Abruptly faced with such brash conduct, we did not know what to say. He went down to the field and, in a maddened fit, began calling out for press people. He was daring us to face the media (which we were looking forward to doing, but did not actually happen). Soon enough, he went back up to the stage and did not face us anymore, much less redeem himself with an apology for his off-putting hotheadedness.

I believe that Mr. Guevara’s impolite, pompous and, ultimately, dishonorable behavior was very unbecoming of a man of his stature and position, most especially as a chief tourism official of Baguio City, and head organizer of the Panagbenga Festival, which claims to have achieved 15 years of “festival excellence”, and the self-proclaimed title of “mother of all Philippine festivals”. His ill-mannered demeanor was uncalled for. And it is such a shame that his congenial wife had to rush forward to apologize for the incident in his behalf. My mother and I remain very offended by his words and actions.

I hope tourism officials will not act this way in the future, especially when citizens (tourists for that matter) give feedback to their events or whatever projects they have organized. They should use whatever criticism they receive as inspirations to improve for the future. I hope well-meant opinions are always received with tactfulness and civility. And, of course, I also look forward to a friendlier, livelier and excellently organized Panagbenga for years to come.

Respectfully Yours,

Edgar Alan Z. Yap

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10 Responses

  1. Ems says:

    Yikes! I could somehow sense you were having a bad time, but didn’t know about this. Panagbena Fail. See you soon?

  2. Alexis says:

    oh no!! that’s terrible!!

    Did you get your camera back? How rude!

  3. This is one thing I dont want to experience whenever I travel.

    I hope this is an isolated case and wont stop you from traveling…luck next time

  4. pusang kalye says:

    I never tried attending panagbenga…baguio is already too crowded during ordionary weekends so I can’t imagine how it would be like during the festival. I wanna keep the remaining good memories I have of Baguio which I think is fading as time goes by….Baguio is a place that you enjoy most with as minimal people as possible….

  5. Pia says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Thanks for sharing, guys! Guevara’s camp never responded to this letter, which was also published in a local paper.

  7. hindi ka nag-iisa Mr.Edgar Allan Zeta-Yap.It happened to me too last Panagbenga 2009 and now Pre-Valentine Fluvial Activities 2011 in Burnham Lake,Baguio City.Same guy that you are talking about.Are you going to cover Panagbenga 2011 Street Dancing and Float Parade with this kind of Experienced in 2010?

  8. Thanks for sharing Richelda! Looks like they haven’t changed. What happened during the fluvial activities? I’ve been receiving emails about Mr. Guevara’s untoward behavior as well. I have no plans of attending the Panagbenga Festival again, until they overhaul the Panagbenga committee and treat tourists better.

  9. Grabe naman. Hopefully next Panagbenga di naman ganyan.

    Christian
    http://lakad-pilipinas.blogspot.com/

  10. Hi Christian, just read your comment. Yes, I hope the Panagbenga committee, and the festival in general improves in the coming years =)

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