9 elementary schools eyeing ‘best Panagbenga street-dancing team

BAGUIO CITY – And then there were nine…

Nine elementary schools passed stringent screening, February 1, in their campaign towards glory in the first ‘Cordillera dance-spiced’ street-dancing competition set February 26, during the Panagbenga Grand Street-Dancing Parade.

In no particular order, the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. (BFFFI) secretariat named Baguio Central School (entry 2), Quezon Elementary (8), San Vicente Elementary (9), Mabini Elementary (10), Rizal Elementary (11), John Hay Elementary (12), Special Education Center (14), Josefa Cariño (15), and Aguinaldo Elementary (17) as the ‘lucky 9’.

There were 17-participating schools in the preliminary dance-off.

The teams were judged using a 100-percent scale divided into the following elements: choreography (20-percent), theme or concept (20-percent), performance (20-percent), costume (15-percent), props (15-percent), and overall impact (10-percent).

Dangal Guevarra, BFFFI secretariat chief revealed, “Choreography includes creativity and artistry of movement patterns, appropriateness of movements, and integration of Panagbenga basic movements.”

He explained, “The BFFFI and our consultants from the National Center for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) have observed Cordillera culture expressed in dance movements have been slowly diminishing in our dancing cavalcades.”

He said, after several seminar-workshops involving school reps in 2010, it was unanimously decided particular highland dance movements should be highlighted to make the street-dancing parade “truly reflective of highland culture.”

“As thus,” Guevarra added, “judges, most of them from NCCA, are particularly looking out for the schools’ innovative mixture of Benguet, Bontoc, Ifugao, and Kalinga dance movements, among others.”

“What we’re seeing now is a product of the representatives’ innovation and collective effort in improving our street-dancing… It is geared towards establishing a new brand of identity for the Panagbenga apart from the world-renowned parade of flower floats.”

He clarified, “Innovation and not authenticity in the dances is given more weight as the latter is reserved for another festival – the Gran Cordillera Fest led by the Department of Tourism held towards the end of the year.”

‘Choreography’ must likewise adhere with the theme of the fête’s 16th Panagbenga which is, “The Environment and Community in Harmony” as a means of getting higher marks in the theme or concept criterion.

Meanwhile Guevarra likewise revealed the criterion of ‘performance’ includes execution, mastery, coordination, synchronization, energy and projection of the dancers in the course of their respective pieces.

‘Props’ on the other hand is judged by using the parameters of artistry, effective use, and relevance to the concept.

Finally, overall impact depends on how widely-received the performance is gauged by the applause and ‘oohs and ahhs’ of each presentation.

About 5,000-people were treated with a Panagbenga ‘innovation’ which highland locals consider ‘long overdue’, February 1, as the first of a series of 2011 Panagbenga events came under way with the fete’s Opening Parade.

For the first time in 16-years, no bands accompanied the ‘heroes of the festival’ – volunteers and brains in the fete’s various events led by city officials – who were presented via a parade which ended at the Baguio Athletic Bowl.

For the first time too, a mixture of Igorot dance steps matched Igorot costumes kids from 17 elementary schools wore as they tried to outperform each other to gain one of the highly coveted nine spots in the Grand Street-dancing Parade on February 26.

Finally, the heavy drumbeats accented by highland gangsa hinted, there will be less of ‘em novelty songs from Filipino noontime shows but more of ‘Cordi’ during the Grand Street-dancing Parade on February 26.

Panagbenga Executive Committee chair Anthony De Leon in a post-event interview said, “The Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. (BFFFI) this year decided it’s time to establish the street-dancing parade as a showcase of Cordilleran culture.”

In years past, the Grand Street-dancing Parade was characterized as a ‘hodge-podge’ of performances with near zero highland significance.
De Leon said, “Aside from our freezing climate which provides a natural tourism come-on, it is our highland culture – the Igorot dances, costumes, and trinkets – which our visitors come to visit in our city.”

“Thus,” he said, “The special committee tasked to revamp the way we do things during the street-dancing parade conducted several seminar workshops administered by experts from the National Center for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to come up with an incomparable mixture of Igorot-inspired choreography required from our participants.”

The committee, De Leon revealed, included teachers, choreographers and members of the BFFFI Secretariat. They have been attending a series of seminar-workshops conducted by NCCA experts since October 2010.

He added, “No longer shall out-of-towners be allowed to participate without them complying with our standards… they shall now be required to at least simulate our highland costumes and incorporate our highland-based choreographies in their movements.”

“The Panagbenga, more than anything else, is our festival.”

Meantime, mayor Mauricio Domogan during the weekly ‘Ugnayan’ presser welcomed the ‘shift back to culture’ saying the opening parade and elementary street-dancing eliminations was conducted successfully.

He however said, “While the opening was definitely a success considering the wide participation of our partners from both public and private sectors, there is definitely room for improvement.”

“After all,” he added, “Innovation has always been the only thing constant in every holding of the Panagbenga.”

He punned, “While I feel sorry for some of our performers going in g-strings not knowing which direction their manhood will point, I am certainly thankful for everybody’s participation without which, our event would not have been successful.”

To highlight the Cordi-focused motif, an “Ipitik” – an Igorot pre-inaugural ritual was held in Panagbenga Park located at the old entrance of Camp John Hay before the Opening Parade.

The park, from hereon, shall be the permanent site of the start of every flower festival-related parades.

Domogan quipped, “hopefully, I can convince other (male) city officials to wear g-strings next time around to emphasize our pride in our culture more.”

At the Athletic Bowl, the crowd was treated by the angelic voices of singers Jessie and Mabel Tolentino during the invocation after the Philippine Military Academy – led flag ceremony.

Thereafter, Baguio representative Bernardo Vergara and Domogan welcomed guests, participants, and onlookers alike, both highlighting this year’s Panagbenga theme: “The Environment and Community in Harmony.”

They highlighted the importance of the partnership between the city government and its people, emphasizing that without both uniting their efforts, every staging of the Panagbenga would not be possible.

Domogan for his part added, the festival should likewise be an avenue to instill pride in every highlander’s identity.

The morning program top-billed by performances of kids from 17-elementary schools vying for 9-slots in the February 26 Grand Street-dancing Parade.

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