Bambanti Festival returns as a celebration of heritage

The giant bambanti of Isabela Province are back–and they are bigger and grander, in all sizes, shapes, and colors.

The bambanti also known as the scarecrow in Isabela, has come a long way from what used to drive away birds and pests from crops to becoming a supreme symbol of all festivals in this side of Northern Philippines.  The Bambanti Festival has evolved to a tribute to the Bambanti who watches over the fields, becoming a tourism, cultural, and heritage event promoting the province as the country’s top agri products and ecotourism destination.

Bambanti Festival Isabela Philippines

Since 1997, Isabelenos have showcased bambanti which have gotten bigger, much to the delight of the locals as well as the tourists visiting the province for the annual Bambanti Festival. Isabela has set the Guiness World Record for having the most number of persons dressed as bambanti in 2019 with a total of 2,495 participants.

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Featuring 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. 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).

Bambanti Festival Isabela Philippines

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.

A revenge celebration of sorts, the 2023 Bambanti Festival is bigger, grander, and more 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. 

Bambanti Festival Isabela Philippines

Isabelenos came in full force 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.

Bambanti Festival Isabela Philippines

The first-place Category A winner of the Giant Bambanti Competition is the province of Dinapigue’s Lady Sapsap, created from 45 kilograms of the small dried fish, abundant in the coastal town.

“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. 

Banner photo courtesy of 2023 Bambanti Festival Celebration.

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