Sunday, March 30, 2014

Azalea Family Staycation

 


 

If you go on a working holiday/vacation with your family in Baguio City, you will need a place where your kids can be preoccupied while you work. There aren't that many hotels in Baguio who offer a play place for kids. In fact I have not seen one except Country Club that offers a day care service. But at Azalea, the play place is free. It is a thoughtful addition to vacationing families. :-)

 



You can do your work at the Tradisyon Restaurant sipping coffee while keeping watch of them play. For a family vacation, I think that is one of the strongest selling point of the hotel. 

While most of the deluxe rooms have veranda's, you may be given one without. You should request for it when booking. If you want to maximize your experience, book a room located at the front side of the hotel. It has better views than the back and at the same time you can also watch out for your kids play at the play place should you choose to work in the veranda. Unfortunately my room during my last stay was at the back so I wasn't able to let my 6-year old buddy go out alone. So instead, he took control of the television remote control and managed to find all the cartoon channels.

 


As for the foods, it's like eating at home with Filipino comfort foods just like what it said in the slogan. If your kid is as picky as mine, there are lots to choose from. 

   

  


 

The rooms are also equipped with electric stove, microwave oven and cooking utensils should you chose to cook your own food. The hotel is very near the City market, about 5 to 15 minutes drive depending on the traffic. Just a short trip to buy your needed ingredients. The family rooms also have enough spaces for small parties and gatherings.

 

 

For more places to play, Burnham park - Baguio's prime park, is just about 10 minutes away.  

    

  

Azalea is not a five star hotel and it has a road entrance that is a bit steep. But don't be fooled by the first impression. It's a jewel hidden in the heart of the City. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Panagbenga Continue to Bloom In spite of its flaws




It's Panagbenga once again and blooming flowers dancing with the soft breeze are imitated by the street dancers as they follow the rhythm of the Panagbenga hymn created by Dean Macario Fronda.

Graduating from its teens, Baguio's flower festival continue to attract visitors in spite of the issues faced by the organizers and the public officials.

When the festival was conceptualize, it was to help Baguio rise up from the devastation of the earthquake. It was to help the tourism, which was one of Baguio's main industry, to rise again. It's likened to a flower that blooms again after slumbering during the winter, or in Baguio's case, the rainy season.

It was also aimed to help agriculture most especially the cut flower industry that was the major product of nearby municipalities like La Trinidad. That was one of the reasons also why Adivay was originally scheduled on February so that the province of Benguet will also benefit from the spill over of the Flower Festival.

While the rest of the country's festivals are hard and fast, Baguio's Panagbenga is light and slow. If we compare it to Martial Arts, the other festivals are like Karate, Jet Kune Do or Kick boxing. Panagbenga is to Tai Chi or Aikido.

But that doesn't mean one is inferior to the other, it's just different. Back in 2011, we tried to speed up the beat of the music to be at par with other festivals. But that decision reaped criticisms coz it lost its established gracefulness.

As for the clamors that culture is disappearing from the presentations, although culture was part of the showcase, it was not intended to be its main feature. It's a festival about flowers so it should primarily feature flowers.

Perhaps what is missing are the flower themed activities like the barangay beautification competition or the flower themed foods served during the first Panagbengas. Are the substituted events for the scrapped activities better in advancing the purpose of the festivity?

As for the culture, I do believe the festival is doing great in showcasing the culture in some presentations. What it lacks is its opportunity to promote other festivals like the Lang-ay in Mt. Province or the Imbayah in Ifugao where cultures are the main showcase. It's a lost opportunity for other festivals in the Cordilleras to make use of the popularity of Panagbenga to attract tourists to their own provinces just like what Kabayan and Kalinga did when they participated in the Street Dancing competition. If they do it more often, their performances would surely lure the curiosity of many tourists and would include those places in their coming itineraries.

Too much commercialization too was being criticized. But isn't this the main purpose of the event? A festival that can help Baguio and its environs increase its revenue during the lean months of February?

But are we targeting the right beneficiaries of our trade fairs? We have more and more stalls from business people coming outside of Cordillera like the Marikina shoes stalls who had been coming here for years. There are more stalls allowed for the Barangays for their livelihoods.  There are stalls selling divisoria-like products. There are many that are not at all Cordillera products. But of course their rentals could be useful to run the festival.

But wouldn't it look better if majority of the products are from the locality? However, many local businesses reacted to the rental of the spaces and many opted to forego renting at the market encounter leaving it to the moneyed people who have non Cordillera products. The trade fairs do attract a lot of locals and tourists alike and it would be a good site to showcase more of Cordillera.

The biggest part of the festivity is the 2-day parade. The latest street dance competition garnered a lot of negative comments from spectators. I do believe this has been a problem for many years. We can't blame the people from complaining since some of them are coming from as far away as Mindanao and some from overseas. The promotion for our Panagbenga shows the beautiful photos and videos of the parades, yet when they come, they see people marching, not dancing in the streets. Shouldn't we allow our dancers to have longer time to dance in the streets and give our audience quality show that they can share? That would surely give the festival a positive impact and positive reviews from the audience. We invite people to come, it's but fair to show them what they came here to see.

Several sectors are commenting that the quality of the shows are declining. And we can't blame them because some of the best street dancers and sponsors of best floats have already earned the hall of famer awards and stopped participating. The idea to give chance to others is a noble one but it took away the reason for some to join. I guess allowing these hall of famers to compete again would somehow give back the parades' quality presentations. With more participants, there will be more performances, more shows, more happy tourists. But the question also is, would quantity equate to quality? As we already mentioned, the ones we don't see anymore are the winning groups or companies who graduated from the competitions. I believe bringing them back will add more quality to our showcase.

But wouldn't it make the parades longer and tire the performers and even the spectators? Sinulog in Cebu starts in the morning and ends at night. It's one of the festivals that attracts many tourists and sponsors and people would go home proud of being there. If Cebu can do it, why can't we? Being hungry watching or participating is part of the festivity and the crowd would be prepared or they can leave when hungry. For the participants, with proper preparation, the performers can have their snacks along the way.  

One of my favorite part of the festivity is the "let a thousand flowers bloom" painting activity. I am looking forward for the next event and hoping for more activities that can add more color to it.

Panagbenga has garnered huge crowd in spite of its flaws. The hospitality business is thriving that it's hard to book for a room during the weekends. Many unemployed had the chance to get part time jobs. The flower industry thrives and that includes the vegetables and fruits like strawberries.

Baguio's industries do bloom during this one month festivity but there are a lot of improvements that could be done. Maybe looking back to its origins will help us analyze the things we should take back and the things we should give up.