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Bambanti Festival

In the Philippines, almost every city has a grandiose festival that involves at least a month’s worth of preparation, an entire spectrum of colors, and a thousand of smiling tourists from all corners of the country. Isabela has one such event—the Bambanti Festival.

Agriculture plays a huge role in the economy of the province that is frequently called names like the “Rice Bowl of the North” and the “Corn Capital of the Philippines”. It follows that the fundamental farming tool scarecrows, which the locals refer to as bambanti, should be celebrated. The iconic Bambanti Festival has been observed in the province since 1997. What started out as a humble occasion quickly gained recognition nationally.

Isabeleños have great regard for their culture and consider scarecrows to be a symbol of diligence, hard work, and protection. In other words, the scarecrow, for the Isabeleños, is more than “just” a scarecrow. In fact, this year’s Bambanti Festival, which was held from January 22 to 27, focused on the theme “Isabela kong Mahal”. The locals and their scarecrows have transcending love for their province.

I have been a devout fan of this festival ever since I started traveling. I just feel that it is a huge waste to miss this event, which always had something fun and new in store for everyone.
This year, I was invited to the festival along with other bloggers and writers. The five-day festivity was loaded with fares and events, and every day was a day to look forward to. I was crazy tired by the time nightfall came, but each day was memorable.


Makan and Mainum Competitions
Pancit Cabagan, Batil Patong, and Dinengdeng are just some of the classic Isabeleño dishes that were served to impress the star-studded group of judges in the “Makan” and “Mainum” (food and drink competition, respectively).

Judges, which included Isabela first lady Ann Dy, Chef Cocoy Ventura and Chef Sandy Daza, spent the entire competition observing contenders as they prepared their respective dishes and beverages. At the end, cooks from the Municipality of Echague won both Makan and Mainum competitions, with the team’s Fried Sweet and Sour Adobo and Illuru drink.

Meanwhile, participants from San Manuel, Tumauini, and San Mateo ranked after Echague in the food competition. Luna, Tumauini, and Roxas come in next in the Mainum competition.

Choral Competition
The contestants in the choral competition proved that choirs aren’t all about sopranos and falsettos. The different groups surprised us audiences when they, clad in their vibrant traditional attires, suddenly sang quirky songs and danced along with them, while singing in their angelic voices!

It was a tough competition, but Cauayan City won the much-coveted first place, followed by Ilagan in second and Alicia in third.

Bambanti Street Dance and Showdown Competition
One of the highlights of the festival is the Bambanti Street Dance and Showdown Competition, which has been attracting perhaps thousands of tourists for years. It was unfortunate that it had to rain on the day of the street dance parade, but all the competing teams (which totaled to almost 40) smiled on and danced on proudly.


There were so much colors. There were vibrant, striking, colors, while there were lots of shiny pinks and blues from the costumes of the dancers who mimicked scarecrows in some of their moves.

The town of Alicia won first prize in both street dance and dance showdown. For the street dance, Alicia was followed by Ramon, Cauayan, Quirino, and Mallig, while for the showdown, the town was followed by Luna, Cauayan, Mallig, and San Pablo.

Each city/municipality had a king and queen that led the dancers while it rained. They were easy to spot. They were on the first rows and their costumes were simply stunning. Each town had a pakulo, but the Festival Kings and Queens of San Agustin and Cauayan City stood out the most, ranking first and second, respectively. The bambanti king from San Mateo and the bambanti queen from San Manuel ranked third.

Bambanti Village
One of the most-awaited event in the festival is the opening of the Bambanti Village, a public street display of “booths”, where Isabela cities and municipalities showcased their creativity by using their respective area’s main products.

Ilagan City was particularly catchy. It is one of the leading producers of corn, so they made a corn scarecrow! Aurora, on the other hand, which is known for calamansi, made an environment-friendly stall of sorts that displayed and sold products made from calamansi.

There were a lot of things put on display, and some cities sold fresh vegetables like puso ng saging, corn, and eggplant, while some sold souvenirs, like those very tiny and colorful hats and fans.

Mingled amongst the creative booths and stalls were shops like Indigenous Handicrafts, which sold authentic Isabela handicrafts; Heritage, which showcased the local culture through arts, woven products, and music; and Lifestyle Merchandise, which sold furniture.

There were so much things to see, buy, and take pictures of.

Like most events in the festival, participating cities and municipalities in the Bambanti Village were judged. The best agri-ecotourism booth were Naguilian, who won first, followed by Jones, Cauayan, Echague, and San Agustin.

Wrapping it Up 
The overall winners were announced on the last day of the festival.  During the program, I saw the faces of locals and tourists who were all eager to hear the results, as they wore their souvenir hats from the Bambanti Village. 

The individual rankings of the cities and municipalities were tallied and then totaled. The overall winners were Cauayan, Alicia, San Agustin, Echague, and Jones, in descending order. 

Although only five participating cities and municipalities were chosen out of almost 40 competitors, I felt that everyone was a winner. Every team was able to show the main product of their respective places in the most creative of ways, and in turn earned the smiles of tourists like me, whom never could have seen the beauty of Isabela in just one day. I think that’s the greatest award anyone could have, and it was perfect for the festival’s theme “Isabela kong Mahal”. 

The scarecrow festival concluded with a concert by Ogie Alcasid, Jona, 4th Impact, and McCoy De Leon and Elisse Joson, and with a literal blast, with the long fireworks display, which had perfectly encapsulated my short, bright, and colorful experience in Bambanti Festival 2018. 
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