Together with fellow bloggers Eric, Flow, Richard and a team from SMART, we spent a spectacular weekend in Baguio City – the Philippines summer capital – to experience the SMART “Live All Out” Panagbenga Festival 2014.
Panabenga Festival Street Dancer
Straight from Manila, we headed to Baguio City after a short stopover at Tarlac’s famous Isdaan Restaurant, where we had our lunch. We tried their Kare-Kare, Sinigang na Baboy, Inihaw na Marinated Pork Liempo and Fried Seafood Platter.
Lunch at Isdaan Floating Restaurant in Tarlac
Their food is really good but a little bit too pricey, unlike the food at the original Palaisdaan in Tayabas City, where we ate last year during our coverage of the SMART Live All Out Pahiyas Festival.
Stopover at Isdaan Floating Restaurant
Upon arriving in Baguio, we proceeded to the Azalea Residences to check in and prepare for our next activity. We were supposed to have dinner at the Ketchup Food Community, but due to a long wait we decided just to have an al fresco pizza and pasta dinner at Pizza Volante Restaurant near Wright Park. It was really cold and we were literally “chilling out” while eating and listening to the band performing in front of us.
DJ at the Club Anthem
After dinner, we headed to Club Anthem for “Altitude Break”, our first “Live All Out” Panagbenga 2014 party. When we arrived, Club Anthem was jam-packed and the crowd was enjoying music played by some of the countries best DJ’s. As much as we wanted to stay and enjoy the party, we had to leave early to prepare for the Panagbenga Grand Street Dance parade the next day.
Panagbenga Street Dancing Contingents
On our second day, we had a quick breakfast at the hotel before heading out early. However, due to the heavy traffic, we had no choice but to park our service vehicle near the Victory Liner Bus terminal and wait for the contingents in the nearest parade route. The Grand Street parade featured eight elementary schools and six other groups in the open category. The streets were literally in bloom, since all the participants’ costumes depicted blooming sunflowers on them.
Coffee at Tamawan Village
After the parade, we proceeded to Tam-awan Village to have some coffee before heading to Forest House for lunch. Forest House Bed and Breakfast is one of my favorite restaurants in Baguio City. Although their food is quite expensive, the quality is definitely worth the price.
Spicy Thai Squid
We ordered Spicy Thai Squid, Sinigang na Bagnet, Sauteed Shrimp Broccoli with Mushroom and my all time favorite, Forest House Home Made Bagnet (crispy fried pork belly with papaya chutney and bagnet salsa). For dessert, we had Blueberry cheesecake, Carrot Cake Supreme, Tiramisu, Oreo Cheesecake and Crème Brulee. Forest House Restaurant has very limited table space, so if you really want to experience good food in a restaurant with a cozy ambiance, make sure to call and reserve a seat ahead of time.
Bagnet at the Forest House
Our next activity was at Spade SuperClub for another “Live All Out” party with SMART Ambassador Alodia Gosiengfiao and various Celebrity DJ’s from Manila and Baguio City. Before heading to the party, we went back to the hotel to have a short nap and freshen up. Before leaving the hotel, we met up with Alodia, who was staying at the same hotel.
Alodia posing with her fans at SMART photo booth
Spade SuperClub was already crowded when we arrived. Since the SMART Booths and the DJ’s were playing outside the bar, we decided to hang outside to watch and party with the crowd. During the event, Alodia visited some of the SMART booths, including the Free Photo Booth, where she snapped some photos with the party goers.
Dancer at Smart Live All Out Party at Spade Super Club
We had to leave early to prepare for another early morning activity: The Panagbenga Grand Float Parade. This particular parade is one of the highlights of the annual Flower Festival and as expected, the streets were filled with spectators by the time we arrived at the SMART float. Together with the SMART events team, we waited for Alodia, who would be boarding the SMART flower-decked float.
Crowd waiting for the Flower Festival Floats
Alodia arrived early, and before she hopped on the SMART float, we were surprised to see almost 50 cosplayers waiting to take photos with her. I’m not a huge fan of cosplay but I managed to snap a selfie with the most popular cosplayer in the Phillipines; believe me, I instantly became a fan.
Selfie with Alodia Gosiengfiao
I can’t imagine where all the flowers came from, but all the festival floats were somehow covered with tons of them, real and fresh. Some of this year’s Grand Float Parade participants included: SMART Communications, Gold Dust Creations, Megapines Realty and Development, GMA Networks Inc., Taloy Norte Farmers, Department of Agriculture-Cordillera Administrative Region, International Pharmaceuticals Inc., Philippine Seven Corporation, Taodharma Inc. (AllPhones), Jollibee, Psalmstre, PIDC-TPLEX, MNTC–NLEX, Baguio Ecopark Inc., Beauche International, International Praise Center, AMA Magsaysay Baguio City, MLhuiller, Le Monet Hotel, City Government of Baguio, Baguio Country Club, and SM City Baguio.
Vigan Longganisa Breakfast
Together with the SMART team, we followed the SMART float to the halfway point of the parade route. There we decided to find our fastest way out of the City Center and find a place to have brunch before heading back to the hotel to check out.
Me beside the SMART Float
After luckily finding a cab near the crowded Session Road, we proceeded to Choco-Late de Batirol in Camp John Hay. Everyone must have been in the City Center since the restaurant was almost empty when we arrived. We ordered their famous hot chocolate, some breakfast meals and extra dishes to share.
We made our way back to Azalea Residences Baguio after our quick brunch to freshen up and check out. I’ve seen how Baguio City celebrated the Flower Festival in previous years, and each year I’ve noticed a lot of improvements, especially in how they control and protect the crowd.
Our Panagbenga Festival 2014 experience was truly exceptional. I will definitely go back next year for the Panagbenga Festival 2015.