Updated 2010-04-19 09:36


It fluttered by and then suddenly landed on his camera lens. The photographer and everyone of us around him were merrily surprised. "How often do you see a butterfly play with you?" It fluttered again and now landed on his orange T-Shirt. The papparazi that so far was busy capturing the biggest event of the day for Philippines, turned their cameras towards this photographer and his new playmate - the butterfly.

He and his buddies sitting on the top of a Pajero, with their cameras and their tripods posited on the roof of the car took some time out of the biggest attraction of the nation and spent some time on this noteworthy incident. Their Pajero was parked right next to the 2 feet high divider upon which me and 10 to 12 other budding photographers queued up securing our positions to shoot the best possible glimpses of the event. This entire set was amidst few 100 thousand visitors who thronged to Baguio to witness the 15th Anniversary of Panagbenga - 'The Panagbenga 2010'.

I vividly remember Joel telling us "Believe me guys, this trip to Baguio is going to be way different than any of your previous trips." I have never really been to Baguio, but the vim and the vigour that filled the atmosphere on 28th Feb 2010 clearly concurred his words.

"The government decided to start this festival 15 years back in order to re-attract tourist to one of the best known hill stations of the Philippines." "Re-attract? Why?" "The Luzon killer earthquake destroyed the entire place back then. But tourism is expanding rapidly here now, courtesy - Panagbenga. And here we are to witness Panagbenga 2010." "So what does Panagbenga mean?" "It is basically a season when the flowers bloom." "You mean Spring?" "Yes. And that is why they have a butterfly as their logo." I was reminiscing my yesterday's conversation with Joel as we walked passed by the Burnham park at the early freezing morning, while smoking out the natural mist out of our mouths with every passing conversation, and I thought Philippines will be hot before I came here!

It was early morning with lot of time to straggle along. I would generally wish to be in bed at this hour of a day and especially when its Sunday, but looking around at Baguio that morning all I saw was energy, anticipation and a verve to witness the festival of flowers. Looking at the tents where people stayed all night (presumably because all the hotels were overbooked), children playing around, people helping each other, I could feel warmth amidst that morning mist.Although, the Panagbenga parade was about to commence an hour later, we decided to secure ourselves in the best possible locations, before people began to congregate. But our assumptions were refuted by the general crowd. All of the places were already occupied and there began our struggle to position ourselves in the best possible location. Mervyn, Aaron and Mel found comfort along the road side while I, Joel and Cha pretended to be the officially appointed photographers while passing few clicks of the anxiously waiting crowd.But it wasnt really a matter of surprise that we were busted pretty soon and were pushed into the back layers of the waiting crowd by the strolling sentries. But luck found its own way to us. There was a road divider right behind the crowd that could give an altitude over the exact point where the road turns and the floats would halt for their performance. We werent really the first ones to think this, but being an early bird has its own advantages since I was now just 4th in the line, giving me a fairly decent view of the perfect angle to capture the event. And how I know that it was the best view, because right besides us was parked a Pajero, upon which a man with a dangling badge that boasted "Secraterait - Panagbenga 2010 Documentation Committee" was plumbing his tripod pipes to fix his camera on the car roof, while the rest of his team mates were busy securing their own positions at different corners of the car's roof. An hour passed away with no action, apart from the one when a garbage truck passed by on the parade track and the person atop amused the crowd by flying celebrity kisses from the top. I was getting little fussy , even Joel and Cha had gone out for a drink and I, not in a mood to lose my position especially after kneering behind me at the ever extending queue, preferred to stand firm until the show begins. To kill some time, I perched my Sony Walkman on my ears to listen to Rahman making people dance on 'Fanaaa'. I never really understood what Gulzar had to say in this song with words like Ulfat, Darya and something that happens with Saaya and its Badan. But who cares, I enjoy Rahman in that song and the exhiliration of that song perfectly matched the zest of the exodus gathered at the Panagbenga 2010. The anxious faces soon started cheering the first float of the morning that begun an hour late. Well everyone in Philippines can understand that, it is Filipino time after all. I envied the mayor of Baguio that day when I saw angels dancing for him in front of his float that kick started the Panagbenga 2010. Looking on my right, I envied Cha since had secured herself atop a drinks van giving her best position and the comfort of her feet getting the due rest, in sitting position. while my legs shuffled their position taking turns to bear my body weight all the while. On my left, the camera men had suddenly turned their attention to the butterfly who had chosen to play with an Orange T-Shirt photographer belonging to the 'Documentation Committee'. "What is a butterfly doing here?" Was such a dumb question from someone behind me. Quite obvious, it is a festival of flowers, where we are about to witness one of the best floats entirely dressed and designed in flowers glide on the surface of the tar road.

With so much of fragrance in the air, the butterfly branding the logo of the festival decided to say 'hi' to everyone across the globe by conveniently choosing the officially appointed photographers to play with. And thus began the replendent ride of one float after another where there were performances, dressings, designs, art, culture, zest, enthusiasm, colours, music and all possible combinations that can make a festival successful mingled with each other. It all began with the leviathans of the retail industry in Philippines - the SM group showcasing their roaring tiger

entirely drenched in the yellow flower (I guess it is called as Marigold). Soon after floats from the likes of AMA, Metro Pacific, LBC, San Miguel, Aegis etc accompanied by school children, professional dancers together summed up the strength of 24 floats that paraded on the streets of Baguio for 2 whole hours entertaining and surprising the masses with every passing moment. "Do you have such festivals in your city back home?" Lego enquired. "Well we do have a republic day parade but it happens in New Delhi and I have never really seen one live anytime." However now I do promise myself to sit amidst that crowd sometime someday to witness the live performance of the Republic Day parade along the India gate. I enjoy watching the parade over the television, but watching it live is surely going to be one hell of an experience and Panagbenga 2010 just talked to me in the same language. I never realised that I have been standing (rahter struggling to stand) on that divider for as long as an average Bollywood movie would last and my legs are now complaining for the ire they had to undergo, but my mind and my heart knew that it was all worth it. Panagbenga 2010 was indeed an experience to remember.

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