The municipality of Cauayan in their Dance Showdown performance
The municipality of Cauayan in their Dance Showdown performance

Isabela consist of 34 municipalities and 3 cities in a province. It is the second largest province in the country. The vast area consist of agricultural plains, forested areas of the Sierra Madres and coastal towns. As one of the top corn producers in the country, Isabela found the bambanti, an Ilocano term for scarecrow, as a significant icon, symbolizing Isabela farmer’s diligence and resoluteness to earn his keep, feed his family and produce for the community. Hence the Bambanti Festival was born in January 2013. It aims to unite the municipalities, showcase their creativity, unique products and increase tourism.

The Agri-tourism booth winner from San Agustin
The Agri-tourism booth winner from San Agustin

Bambanti Festival 2017

Though the Bambanti Festival has been around for more than five years. It is not commercially known festival like the other festivals happening during the month – Sinulog, Dinagyang or Ati-atihan. Silent but not without a buzz, for the past couple of years, the festival has earned a couple of awards from the ALIW Awards foundation for Best Festival Practices and Performances. This year’s theme is “Isabela para sa Daigdig (Isabela for the world)” in which the festival aims to make its quality in par with world standards and be known globally.


The giant bambanti winner from Roxas municipality
The giant bambanti winner from Roxas municipality

Booths, Giant Scarecrows

This is the first time for me to experience the Bambanti Festival. The event grounds is located in Ilagan, the provincial capital. At the plaza is the Bambanti Village where there are 15 municipalities showcasing their agri-tourism booths and products. 14 of the booths also have their gigantic Bambanti. From the booth to the scarecrow, it is admiring how they creatively showcased the unique character of their municipalities by utilizing native materials and products from their area. From the meticulous details of San Agustin using beans and hay stacks for their design patterns to the shell-covered walls of Danipigue and the corn-covered booth of Tamauini.

Street dance competition winner from Quirino
Street dance competition winner from Quirino

Epic Performances

Then there’s the performances. The stage was set at the Ilagan Sports Complex and I have to note how much work was put into the production. The stage, lighting, cameras, drones and sound system used were for full-blown production. It is clear Isabela invested much to make the shows as spectacular as possible.

Unlike other festivals where I had to run around trying to catch up with the contingents for the street dance, Bambanti Festival Street Dance only had to make the groups do a round at their vast oval. Which I think was a good idea. And during the grand Dance Showdown, to make sure there was no lull in between performances, they added a timer to make the transition faster between groups. Bambanti Festival contingents mades use of all available media at the stage, from the lighting, music and LED screens to add to their traditional marching bands.

As expected, the scarecrow theme kept coming up as each municipality performs their local festival adhering to the theme. Some were really grand, others simple and even the moves familiar. But it really kept me entertained and sometimes in awe. Notable performances for me are from Cauayan, Luna, Danipigue, Alica and Cabatuan.

KIng and Queen festival costume winners from Luna
KIng and Queen festival costume winners from Luna

Isabela Tourism Update

As a member of the media, we had an opportunity to ask some questions to Vice Governor Antonio Albano along with reigning Miss Earth International from Ecuador, Katherine Espin and Philippines, Loren Mar Artajos. It was great to hear the infrastructure developments happening in Isabela and I was particularly interested on how well the municipalities of Maconacon and Divilacan are doing since my last visit. Sadly, despite the influx of green energy companies coming into Isabela, power is still a hard commodity in both municipalities mentioned. The good news is that the development of the old logging trails has started last year and they are targeting to finish the road by the end of 2017. This way it is easy to connect with the coastal towns and see what’s happening. It will open up tourism as well.

Dance Showdown winner from Alicia municipality
Dance Showdown winner from Alicia municipality

Bambanti Event Winners

While the Bambanti Festival 2017 already looks grand by itself, there is still room for improvement. The awarding could have utilized the LED screens to flash photos or video clips as they announce the winners. That way people wouldn’t have to ask which costume or performance won.

The organizers also brought a bunch of ABS-CBN talent in their concert night. While I’m not really updated on TV stars, I’m glad to discover the talent of KC from the four ASAP divas that really stood out for me along with Yeng. They were highly entertaining and the talent oozing. And should I say the more than 50,000 people (or more) who came to watch at the plaza really had a grand time.

In the meantime, here are the list of winners from the festival competitions.

Best Hiphop Bboy

  • 5th – Jones (5k)
  • 4th – Alicia (10k)
  • 3rd – Cabagan (15k)
  • 2nd – Cauayan (20k)
  • 1st – Santiago City (25k)

Kusinero ng Isabela Inabraw expert

  • 4th – Cauayan
  • 3rd – Cabatuan
  • 2nd – San Mateo
  • 1st – Tumaini

Best Festival King and Queen Costume

  • 5th – Roxas
  • 4th – Cauayan
  • 3rd – San Mateo
  • 2nd – Ramon
  • 1st – Luna

Festival King

  • 5th – San Manuel
  • 4th – Echague
  • 3rd – Luna
  • 2nd – Cauayan
  • 1st – Roxas

Festival Queen

  • 5th – Echague
  • 4th – San Manuel
  • 3rd – Luna
  • 2nd – Cauayan
  • 1st – Roxas

Giant Bambanti

  • 5th – San Mariano
  • 4th – Delpin Albano
  • 3rd – San Agustin
  • 2nd – Quirino
  • 1st – Roxas (40K)

Agri-tourism Booth

  • 5th Jones
  • 4th Palanan
  • 3rd Dinapigue
  • 2nd Quirino
  • 1st San Agustin

Best in Street Dance

  • 5th – Cauayan
  • 4th – Cabatuan
  • 3rd – Echague
  • 2nd – Alicia
  • 1st – Quirino (75k)

Dance Showdown

  • 5th – Echague
  • 4th – Cauayan
  • 3rd – Luna
  • 2nd – Mallig
  • 1st – Alicia
The Bambanti Festival 2017 overall grand winner from competitions is Roxas municipality
The Bambanti Festival 2017 overall grand winner from competitions is Roxas municipality

Overall Bambanti Grand Winner

  • 5th – Luna
  • 4th – Alicia
  • 3rd – Cauayan
  • 2nd – Quirino
  • 1st – Roxas
The fireworks display after the concert performances in a jam-packed sports complex
The fireworks display after the concert performances in a jam-packed sports complex

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