I learned of some of the reactions regarding my article, “This was Session Road in Bloom” (April 26, 2009). Initially glad to learn that there were people who actually read my column (an artist always appreciate an audience, receptive or otherwise), it was also depressing to learn that a lot of them missed the point.
No, it was not necessarily a critique of the people behind Panagbenga’s Session Road in Bloom, but of the event itself and the concept behind it. For me, no matter who takes charge of that annual rape of Session Road, it would remain what it is for me: rape. Because of the adverse reactions to the article, I asked a few friends, some of whom were actually directly involved in that week-long event: did you actually enjoy Session Road in Bloom? Did you actually feel good about yourself and for Baguio itself walking down that road amidst the chaos and noise and, particularly at night towards the end of the day, filth? I'm sure you can already imagine most of the responses.
I was asked why I was “attacking” Session Road in Bloom when I myself was a part of it (our group performed and had a public screening of “Portrait of a Hill Station,” our documentary on the history of Baguio). We were invited to perform at the main stage of Session Road in Bloom, and we are very happy and honored to have been invited at all. Grateful, we truly are, and we thank the people behind Session Road in Bloom for the wonderful opportunity to tell the people of the history of Baguio and sing songs with lyrics such as “Kabunyan kami’y dinggin, kalikasan ay i-adya sa lahat ng masama;” “Sino ba’ng nagmamayari ng lupang ‘to, ano ba’ng tama kasaysayan o titulo?;” “Ang mithiin ng Baguio isapuso mo,” right there at the top of Session Road.
Consider the tentative schedule of events that was published ahead of the festival: 29 scheduled minor events, 19 of which were to be held in one mall, 10 pop concerts, a beauty pageant and a fashion show, a couple of promotional tours by television networks engaged in a ratings war who relentlessly elbowed each other out for better positioning the whole festival, you get the drift. Oh, and ahhh, a Pony Boys’ Day. Panagbenga is a Baguio festival, a good idea to begin with, and like most festivals around the country, you would think that it would highlight and celebrate the beauty of and the many other things that this city can be proud of.
And that Earth Day morning? That was a celebration of what Baguio is all about, that was something the city could be proud of. No rush, no filth, no noise, just children drawing, just people smiling, just the city heaving a sigh of relief. I also asked some people how they felt on that cool Baguio morning, you can already imagine all of their responses.
As I said, that previous article was not exactly a critique of the people behind this year’s Panagbenga. Maybe this, is:
And one night, a big night, Baguio artists played supporting roles in a musical performed on the lake which served as a front-act to La Diva, promoted by festival organizers as the country’s version of the pop group “Destiny’s Child.” Our group provided stage management support to that musical, and while we were packing up boxes and boxes of props and costumes, preparing huge set pieces for transport after the show, we were being harangued by both festival staff and security guards to quickly get out of the way because the La Divas were coming. And while festival staff sternly informed us ahead of the performance that there are no meals allocated for the unpaid stage management group during rehearsals, and no, they can’t provide a couple of hundred pesos worth of candles that could have added much to the musical’s aesthetic value, and no they can’t provide us with a few extra plastic monoblock chairs for the cast and choir to sit on backstage, and no they can’t provide a few extra personnel for the production that it badly needed, by the end of La Diva’s performance, there were suddenly throngs of Panagbenga personnel and security guards cordoning off the way from the stage all the way to Lake Drive for the three pop stars to make their way to their vehicle safely and comfortably.
Yeah, I think this one is.