Bambanti Festival 2023
Have you seen giant bambantis? The Province of Isabela have them in all sizes, shapes, and colors. And for years, since 1997, Isabelenos keep them getting bigger much to the delight of the locals as well as the tourists visiting the province, especially on the last week of January for the annual Bambanti Festival. In fact, Isabela takes pride to have set the record for having the most number of persons dressed as bambantis in 2019. A total of 2,495 participants joined to set the Guinness World Record title.
Indeed, the farmers’ best friend, the scarecrow or bambanti in Isabela, has come a long way – from the lowly fixtures used to drive away birds and pests from crops to becoming a supreme symbol of the Mother of all festivals in this side of Northern Philippines. But there is more to the festival than just the scarecrows. Through the years, Bambanti Festival — a tribute to the Bambanti who watches over the fields — has grown to become a tourism, cultural, and heritage event promoting the province as the country’s top agri products and as an ecotourism destination.
Showcasing various activities, trade fair, parades, street dancing, and competitions, the festival has received numerous awards including the Aliw Award for Best Festival Practices and Performance from 2015 to 2017 and the Aliw 2018 Hall of Fame Award for Best Festival Practices and Performance. Further, in 2022, the Department of Tourism (DOT) recognized Bambanti Festival as the overall winner of the 2022 Pearl Awards for Best Tourism Practices in the Philippines during the 23rd Annual Convention of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP).
A revenge celebration of sorts, the 2023 Bambanti Festival is bigger, grander, and festive highlighting LGU-contested events on Bambanti Booth, Bambanti Scarecrow, Street Dance and Dance Showdown, Festival King and Queen, Makan ken Mainum, musical events and a grand concert, and the much-awaited Search for Queen Isabela 2023. Sports activities and medical missions were also conducted throughout the week-long celebration.
Coming from a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic, the festival is aptly themed, ‘ISABELA, Pagharap sa Bagong Hamon ng Kinabukasan,’ with Vice Governor Faustino ‘Bojie’ Dy III as Director General of the 2023 Bambanti Festival Celebration.
Isabelenos came in full force — getting out of their homes, towns, cities and municipalities – filling every venue of festival activities at the Isabela Provincial Capitol Grounds in the City of Ilagan.
No less than the tandem of Gov. Albano III and Vice Gov. Dy III gamely capped the festivity by hosting and awarding the winners in all competitions.
“We now celebrate the resilience and diligence of the Isabela farmer that has brought the integrity of the province as the country’s biggest corn and rice surplus producer. The City of Ilagan is the Corn capital of the country and we have the town of San Mateo as the Mongo Capital of the Philippines and it is the province’ supplying rice to Metro Manila,” Dy said.
“We are happy to report to our people that we have successfully bounced back by having the highest GDP last year after coming from the pandemic,” Albano added.
Aside from the prizes allotted for all the competition winners, the Albano-Dy tandem awarded all towns, municipalities, and cities of Isabela with P100,000 each.
A major highlight of the festival is the Bambanti Agri-Tourism Village featuring community life, history, and heritage, as well as the various indigenous world-class products, lifestyle merchandise items, and cuisine as the pride of place of the 37 towns/villages, cities, and municipalities of Isabela. Participating municipalities put up uniquely designed booths in front of the provincial capitol. Each booth showcased each town’s creativity while displaying and selling its agricultural produce and other products.
Of the 32 entries this year, the City of Ilagan and Cordon topped others for first place for categories A and B, respectively. The City of Ilagan was adjudged 1st place for its masterpiece with its huge drone as a roof cover, a testament to the awesome development of the city.
Makan Ken Mainum Competition
Started seven years ago by Mary Ann Dy, the better half of Vice Gov. Dy, the cooking competition aims to highlight the food scene and cuisine of Isabela Province. This year, Isabela’s future generation took centerstage as they battle it out in coming up with the province’s food (Makan) and drinks (Mainum) innovations. Most of the student participants belong to Gen Z’s younger group, from 9-14 years old. Their teachers, mentors, classmates, and supporters, naturally filled the vicinity of the cook fest either cheering them or giving them last-minute instructions.
Festival King & Queen
This year’s candidates for the Isabela Festival King and Queen competition flaunted their symbolic costumes — colorful and with touches of indigenous materials that represented their respective municipality’s local culture and festivals — at the SM Cauayan City. They also mesmerized the audience as they performed at the Street Dance and Dance Showdown competitions at the Isabela Sports Complex.
Candidates from Echague (Category A) and Luna (Category B) made sure they donned the best and were not outdone at the street dance and emerged first-place winners both for the King and Queen categories.
Festival Dance Competition
Divided into two categories, Street Dance and Dance Showdown, each contingent prepared a street dance routine performed around the sports complex’s oval track and a dance showcase on the main stage.
More than just a parade of intricate props and attires by the contingents from different cities and municipalities, it was a tribute to the optimism and resilience that the Isabeleños of this vast agricultural province had shown against all odds while showcasing their rich history and culture. And with solid choreographies, clean successions, and fluid storylines of the contingents, crowd favorites Cauayan City (Steet dance, category A) and San Agustin (category B) lorded over the 20 contingents.
The intense questions during the Q & A portion surely made the beaucon more grueling as the ladies braved the cold weather of the coronation night. In the end, Catherine Joy Legaspi from the municipality of San Manuel bagged the Queen Isabela 2023 title. Joining her in the magic five were Queen Isabela Culture and the Arts Johanna Trisha Cinco from the municipality of Ramon; Queen Isabela Tourism Julie Mae Villanueva from the City of Cauayan; 1st runner-up Jaycel Lumauig representing the Indigenous Peoples Community; and 2nd runner-up Cherry Lee Garlijo from the municipality of Alicia.
Over-all Winners Champion
Quirino is this year’s champ for topping the numerous awards received in the Bambanti competitions. San Agustin came as 1st Runner Up, with 2nd Runners Up – City of Ilagan & Alicia, 3rd Runner Up – Cauayan City, and 4th Runner Up – Echague.
Kudos to the Albano III-Dy III tandem for putting up a highly successful, meaningful event with the strong and unwavering support of proud and happy Isabelenos — the real champ in every Bambanti Festival.
And as they say “See you at the Bambanti Festival 2024!