Bambanti Festival is the official festival of the Province of Isabela. Held annually in the month of January, the award-winning festival has become a key factor in helping to build a cultural identity for the residences of Isabela.
People flock from all corners of Isabela to celebrate their rich agricultural heritage in song-and-dance, and a little friendly competition.
The festival derives its name from the Ilocano word for “scarecrow”, and the Bambanti have become the iconic symbol for the farming communities of Isabela. Its meaning is emblematic of the historic ties farmers have with scarecrows and their crops, and represent the diligence and resoluteness of the people of Isabel.
Festivities start on the 23rd of January, culminating in a show-stopping extravaganza on the 28th.
Provincial Capitol Grounds
Ilagan City, Isabela Philippines
ABOUT THE BAMBANTI FESTIVAL:
Bambanti Festival was first institutionalized in March of 1997 — celebrating the rich agricultural history of the Province of Isabela, and the lasting legacy of generations of farmers who have built the community.
The Bambanti or “Scarecrow” has become a symbol and mascot of the celebration because of its historic ties to farmers and their crops. Symbolizing the diligence, resoluteness, and the enduring spirit of the people of Isabela.
The annual festival consists mainly of participants from the 34 municipalities of Isabela, coming together to compete in a variety of friendly activities.
Typically the participants will construct murals and giant Bambanti/Scarecrows from crops or produce from their respective regions.
There are also parades and costume pageants, along with dance and cook-off competitions between each of the participating municipalities.
(Only 15 Municipalities participated in the 2017 Bambanti Festival)
The festival takes place at the Provincial Capitol Grounds in Ilagan City.
The Province of Isabela – aka The Breadbasket Of The North
Isabela is the second largest province in the Philippines situated in the northeast region of Luzon. Named after Queen Isabela of Spain, the Province was founded on May 1st, 1895.
Today, the province is number one in corn production, as well the second largest rice producing province for the entire nation.
Home to vast wetlands and farmland, a majority of the nation’s vegetable produce comes from Isabela. Making the Province one of the wealthiest, outside of Manila.
How to get to The Bambanti Festival:
- 1 hour 10 minutes via Plane – Metro Manila–Cauayan Airport, Isabela
- 8 hours 43 minutes drive via Pan-Philippine Highway Rd/R-8
- 10–15 hours via Bus
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN VISITING THE BAMBANTI FESTIVAL:
Bambanti Village acts as the main hub of the Festival located at the Provincial Capitol Grounds in Iligan City.
(Expect heavy to moderate traffic conditions getting to and from the Capitol.)
Agri-Ecotourism Booths – Participating Municipalities construct elaborate Agri-Ecotourism Booths.
Visitors are encouraged to walk around and visit each booth.
Don’t be afraid to speak with the representatives from each Municipality. If you are interested in agriculture or have general questions about farming and fresh produce, they are more than willing to entertain you or any questions you may have.
(Bambanti Village is constructed on a dirt field so if it’s rainy, the roads will be muddy).
The Agri-Ecotourism Booths are decorated with produce from each Municipality.
Each booth is judged on a number of criteria by the Festival Committee.
A variety of beans and seeds were used to create this sign.
The amount of detail and creativity displayed at Bambanti Village was quite impressive.
Giant Bambanti/Scarecrows – stand vigilant at every Agri-Ecotourism Booth in Bambanti Village.
The paper mâché Scarecrows are also intricately decorated. Each Municipality gave their interpretation of a Giant Bambanti.
Judges look for originality and use of produce when they rank the Giant Scarecrows.
Winners for the Agri-Ecotourism Booths and the Giant Bambanti are announced on the last day of the festival— where they receive cash prizes and the coveted Golden Bambanti Statue.
Culinary Competition – Competing Municipalities present their takes on the traditional Ilocano dish “Inabraw”.
Inabraw is a type of soup or stew, that incorporates grilled fish with squash and local vegetables. It is similar to pinakbet — another dish from Nothern Philippines.
Locally grown—organic Red Aromatic Rice was served along with the Inabraw.
This local variant of rice is said to be healthier than brown rice. The red color is from naturally occurring antioxidants and it’s also high in fiber and good for the digestive system.
Farmers – Selling their fresh goods at the Village.
Local farmers from around Isabela sell their organic produce at the Bambanti Village.
It was cool to actually see and purchase products that were picked earlier that day.
Food doesn’t get any fresher.
Mung beans from San Mateo Isabela are considered to be among the best and tastiest in the Philippines.
They are usually cooked in savory stews but are also found in deserts.
B-boy and Hip-Hop Dance Off – One of the more exciting and contemporary parts of the Bambanti was the hip-hop and b-boy dance off.
The dance crews were all very talented and it was awesome watching each Municipality bring its own flavor and skill to the competition.
Costume Viewing – Each Municipality has a specially designed costume that aims to capture the essence of that particular region. The costumes are worn by the Bambanti Kings and Queens of their respective Municipalities.
You can view the costumes before the King and Queen Pageant.
The Costumes that took inspiration from the indigenous peoples of Isabela were the ones that stood out.
Bambanti King And Queen Pageant – Contestants adorn elaborate costumes representing the essence of each Municipality.
Winners of the Festival Competition are rewarded on the last day of the Festival.
The top winners all take home cash prizes.
The evening closed with a huge concert performed by some of the best Talents in the country.
Some of the countries top performers came to close out the Festival in what is probably the grandest closing number to any Festival in the Philippines.
We were blown away by the scale of the entire production.
OTHER ACTIVITIES AT BAMBANTI FESTIVAL:
Boat ride – Boat rides are available at the pond in the center of the Capitol Complex.
There are also a number of activities available throughout the day that can keep you busy.
Amusement Park – A small Fair was set up near Bambanti Village.
Kids will enjoy the rides and games and it’s a nice hangout spot between Festival events and shows.
If you get hungry or feel like a snack, food vendors are positioned throughout the village and fairgrounds.
You can also attend Seminars at the Permaculture Hut—which has a training center and school where you can hear from a wide variety of speakers on topics ranging from agriculture to sustainable (eco) technologies.
Touring the Permaculture Farm and learning how they implement sustainable technologies with low-impact agricultural practices is important for everyone to know.
It was amazing to see how the People at the Permaculture are pushing the boundaries of agricultural science to help preserve the planet.
It’s fair to say that The Bambanti Festival is the pride and joy of the people of Isabela.
It’s an extraordinary week-long event that really brings the people of Isabela together in friendly competition.
Why it may not be as popular as Masskara or visited by the same numbers who flock to Sinulog—Bambanti Festival deserves to be ranked amongst the best in the Country.
If you have the time, go and experience Bambanti at least once.
Live an Awesome Life,
SEAN NOLAN of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our Visit to Bambanti 2017 was courtesy of The Governers Office Of Isabela. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. The Bamabanti Festival has won 2 consecutive years for best Festival from the ALIW Foundation for best Festival.