The Autonomy Mascot meets and greets its fans during the Panagbenga 2018 Street Dance Parade.

BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera autonomy mascot took part once again in the Panagbenga 2018 Grand Street Dance Parade held on February 24, 2018 in Baguio City.

The Autonomy Mascot led the contingent of the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-CAR), and was warmly received by the thousands of people who lined up the streets to join in the celebration. Dancing, waving and jovially greeting the crowd, the Mascot was a huge sensation. Tourists and residents alike wasted no time in taking pictures of and with the Mascot. Children, especially, were very excited to meet and greet the Mascot.

The Street Parade commenced at the Panagbenga Park at the Upper Session Road, and flowed down the entire length of Session Road into Magsaysay Avenue before turning around into Harrison Road and ending at the Athletic Bowl in Burnham Park, where the street dancing competition was held.

The Autonomy Mascot embodies a gangsa or a gong that is used in traditional rituals and celebrations in the Cordillera. The mascot’s first appearance was during the same parade in 2017, and has since been a part of several festivals and celebrations within the region, such as the Cordillera Month’s Unity Gong relay, Kawayan Festival, 13th Lang-ay Festival Civic Parade and Bontoc’s 50th founding anniversary.

The Autonomy Mascot was commissioned by the RDC-CAR as one of the many innovative Information, Communication and Education (IEC) tools utilized to boost awareness and understanding on the Cordillera regional autonomy agenda. All CAR provinces have received Autonomy Mascots for their own use.

Panagbenga is a month-long Flower Festival held annually in Baguio City which was first celebrated in 1995. The term “panagbenga” is a Kankanaey word which means “season of blooming”. The Festival involves an opening celebration with a street parade, followed by a series of activities relative to the celebration, and culminating in a Grand Street Dance Parade and Competition, and a Grand Float Parade, among others.

More than a million people take part in the celebration annually, including hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the country and even abroad. This year, an estimated 1.5 million people turned out to join Panagbenga 2018.

This year’s Panagbenga theme is “Celebration of Culture and Creativity”, in reference to the declaration of Baguio City as the first Creative City of Crafts and Folk Arts in the country by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) in 2017.

Relative to this, one of the three goals of regional autonomy is to achieve an enhanced Cordilleran identity by highlighting the unique culture and history of the people of within the region. The attainment of regional autonomy will allow the Cordillerans to take pride in their identity and preserve their unique and colorful customs, practices and traditions. (Jared Jeric B. dela Cruz, NEDA- SPCAR)