Thursday, March 29, 2012

Panagbenga Festival, the Complexities

The 17th Panagbenga probably has presented one of the unique innovations done with its street dancing parade shifting from the original flower filled dances backed with pop music into cultural presentations. This and many other events earned lots of positive and negative reactions from the audience. I believe all festivals have complexities.

With the final showdown at the Athletic Bowl, Cordillerans seem to have improved in showcasing their ethnic customs. However, the supposed street dancing parade was past paced along the stretch of Session and Harrison roads that the audience there complained for the lack of entertainment.

As my friend Fiscal Elmer Sagsago said of his visitors who came all the way from Bicol, “They came expecting a lot of dancing during the street dancing competition but were very disappointed. If you invite guests to your City to be entertained, make sure that they will be entertained,” said Sagsago. Many other guests share the same sentiment and they did not care to follow them to the athletic bowl because they didn’t expect a grander show.

The problem the organizers had been trying to solve was the pacing of the parade. As the BFFFI Chairman explained, “if we solve the pacing, we lose the entertainment value. But if we focus on the entertainment value, it will affect the pacing.” It probably is one of the most common problems of festivals.

During the early years of the Panagbenga festival, 2 minutes were allotted for each participant to perform in designated areas on the streets. This causes big gaps in between participants. But are the big gaps a big problem among the audience? As one of the execrators commented, “I believe the gap is the least of their worries and they’d rather enjoy watching the performances which is the reason why they came.”

Another issue among the observers is the extended 2-day parade. It was stretched so that the two parades could be finished earlier in the day. It has also more income potential for businesses with more days for tourists to stay in the City.

A veteran journalist who had been covering many festivals told me that long parades are not problems in other parts of the country, the longer the parades, the better. The festivals like the Sinulog starts at 8 in the morning and ends at 12 midnight and people enjoy them and they don’t complain.

They have concentrated their effort for that one day grand show and they have successfully generated longing for the audience that sponsors are willing to bestow their support giving away more than enough budget to make a spectacular festival.

As my journalist friend said, our festival in Baguio seems to be concentrated on the income the city can generate than to the quality that it was stretched thin throughout the month of February in five weeks of scattered activities.
Yet sponsors seem to be backing away to give their full support for the festival with less and less funds to spend for a grander showcase.

Another friend who has observed the growth of the festival through the years compared it to a cup of peanut that if placed on a large plate, the peanut would look very little for not filling the whole space. But if the same amount of peanut is placed on a small saucer, it would look plenty.

Less is more would be the statement. Putting all the Panagbenga events in 1 week instead of 1 month would perhaps become a dream vacation for many tourists, but of course, less income to the businesses sector. How can we satisfy the audience at the same time maximize the potential to the business sector? It is now a question how to balance quality and quantity.

One suggestion I received from another friend is there should be more promotions. People from other places only think of the main parade when they hear Panagbenga.

Every activity should have its own advertising budget, not a collective promotion for the whole event. Although the fluvial parade was a disappointment this year, this was one of the unique events that this friend of mine wanted to see because of the photos he saw in a magazine published last year, Yet it completely skipped his mind because he did not see any separate advertisement promoting it. There may have been ads but not enough that not many people noticed.

He said all of the activities during the Panagbenga have potentials to be Grand National events. The “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom” could attract national or even international artists who are willing to come and create a painting that they can give away to Panagbenga and the foundation can earn by auctioning them.

With only one famous artist we can invite to come, many others will follow. And many of the best artists who can draw crowds live right in the neighborhood.

The Pony Boys day too can attract more participants it its games if properly advertised.

I do agree that if we can’t compress all the events together, separate promotions should be given more attention. I promoted the “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom” event to online facebook groups, many came and have created beautiful designs that were chosen to be included in the parades. And that was just me. How much more when there are people dedicated to do that kind of promotions to all groups in the country? Perhaps even this event can create big income potential when it’s hyped in all advertising media.

Like what my friend said, there’s a possible way to address the quality and not loss in quantity for this festival. We may not need to hire more people to do it, just use proper mechanisms.