I must admit, I am not fond of attending or watching any sort of festivals because I don't like being stuck in a thick crowd, I hate to squirm among the people and endure an exhausting ordeal. When I was still in Davao City, I rarely watch the float parade, even street dancing, of the Kadayawan Festival. I would just stay in the boarding house and watched the event on television.

But Panagbenga Festival is different, it is incredibly unique and famous and to become part of the crowd of this extremely popular celebration in the country is somewhat fantastic. An opportunity I should never miss and as a travel blogger, this sort of social activity is ultimately crucial for my site's updates.

The Panagbenga Festival, also known as the Flower Festival, is a month long celebration in Baguio city which traditionally kicks off on the first week of February and ends on the first week of March.

This is one of the most highly anticipated festivals in the country due to the unique atmosphere of the celebration --- the spectacular display of lovely blooms! So enchanting!! No doubt, it drew thousands of visitors annually, transforming the little city of Pines into a crowded cosmopolitan. Well, apart from the wonders of blooming flowers, people flocked to the summer capital every February to relax and enjoy the cool weather and the beautiful scenery of nature.

Panagbenga comes from the native dialect of the people in the Cordilleras which has a literal meaning of "season of blooming". And indeed, it was. All over Baguio, I saw nothing but stunning blooms of all kinds of flowers, in different shades and shapes.

I traveled to Baguio with friends, the trip was sponsored by Ms. Gemalyn Avila as her treat to her staff, we just got on as extra baggage haha!

We left Mandaluyong City on February 22, 2014, Saturday, at 5:00 in the morning. It was a beautiful feeling being able to relax after a whole week of work in a nine-hour job. We brought so many foods for this trip! So we did not worry too much on our budget. 

We also decided not to book for a hotel room and just sleep in the car instead. For a festival like Panagbenga, it's so rare to find vacant rooms in all tourist inns in Baguio, you need to make an advance booking several months ahead to get one. So the van of our friend, Aldrin Banas, became like a moving room :-P

At the Wright Park
At the Good Shepherd Convent

We had a stop over at Kennon Road to view the famous Lion's Head Monument. Despite the sunny weather, the environment was awfully cold! After 30 minutes, we're back on the road, up to the rolling hills of the Benguet province. We arrived in Baguio at 12:00 noon and we found ourselves stuck in the middle of a heavy traffic along the Brent road! The car barely moved, gosh!

One of the cart entries at the float parade on February 23, 2014

Since we arrived very late we did not witness the street dance parade so we proceeded to the Wright Park to stroll, then to the Good Shepherd convent. We wanted to go to Burnham Park to have a dry picnic for our lunch but we could not find a vacant parking space due to tons of private vehicles so we're on the road again travelling to Botanical Garden, there, we found a spacious parking area and had our lunch inside the car.

During my first travel to Baguio City in April 2008, I wasn't able to visit Botanical Garden because it was very late in the evening when my colleagues decided to go to this area and I was already tired walking around the market and Burnham Park so I just stayed in the Betania Retreat house. This time, I did not miss the opportunity of going down to the Botanical Garden, the blossoming flowers were incredibly lovely!

At the Botanical Garden

We went back to the Wright Park after our botanical garden strolling. Then crossed the street to visit The Mansion, the official summer residence of the incumbent Philippine president. Visitors were not allowed to go to the manicured lawn of the mansion so we just contented to pose for pictures in the background.

And guess who we saw upon leaving the mansion? Paolo Contis! I wasn't sure what he did in front of the camera and the crowd, the only thing I knew, he was filmed while having a scene with another actor.

Freezing night at Burnham Park!

By 7:00 in the evening, we had another round of a joy ride as we could not find a parking space in almost all areas in Baguio City. We decided to park the car in the intersection leading to Burnham park to take a rest. The night was freezing and very cold so after staying a little while at the riverside of Burnham park, we decided to go back to the car. 

In this travel, I experienced how it was like to be a backpacker, you know that weird, but exciting trip of a travel adventurer to just sleep anywhere, go to different places with no particular itinerary to follow and no hotel room to rest on?Yeah, that was exactly what we did in this trip, backpack travelers! Very exciting!

Though it was slightly uncomfortable, the experience provided me with a different taste of an adventure. We spent the whole night in the car, the environment was insanely cold so I covered myself with two layers of jackets, wore hand gloves and socks and put on my bonnet. We just used a public comfort room to wash our face and body and changed clothes. We felt like attending a jamboree but it was a very good adventure, so many funny memories!!

Around 4:00 in the morning on February 23, we're awaken by a gentle knock on the window of the car, telling us to move out from the area because it should be secured by the police in time for the preparation of the float parade later at 8:00 in the morning. Again, it was a total agony because we could not find a vacant parking space. We ended up having another joy ride all over Baguio City at the very early morning. Until we found a vacant space in front of the University of Baguio, very far from where the float parade is passing.

We rested for a while then had our breakfast inside the car at 6:00. At 6:30, we started walking the narrow street, joining the throng of people to be on the road for the float parade. But the moment we arrived near SM Baguio the street was already fully occupied and we could no longer find a vacant space. 

at the PMA ground

We ended up standing at the upper part of the hill in front of Baguio Cathedral with nothing to see but branches of trees, we only saw the blossoming float carts on top of the heads of the crowds, so I felt so sleepy and tired.

The float parade was so amazing because the cart entries were decorated with different flowers and plants, my first time to see such massive display of blooms!. We saw celebrities like Marianne Rivera and Alden Richards joining the float parade. The street dance presentation was also fantastic. The only thing I regretted was our location behind the trees preventing us from getting a perfect view of the floral parade.

Around 9:30, we decided to leave the area and went back to the car. At 10:00 in the morning, we went to Camp John Hay to visit the Philippine Military Academy. Nothing has change at the PMA ground from the first time I visited the area in 2008. 

At 11:30, we left Baguio and traveled back to Manila. We had a stop over in Urdaneta, Pangasinan for our lunch. My sister and I arrived in Caloocan at 7:00 in the evening. What a two-day relaxing adventure in the city of Pines!! Thanks to Gemalyn Avila for this trip!!