Bambanti Festival

Bambanti Festival celebrates Isabela’s bounty

Bambanti Festival makes a colorful splash in the province of Isabela in Region 2 as a celebration of her bounty, the resiliency, strength and resoluteness of her people despite adversity and determination in its bid to become the premier agro-industrial hub in the Pacific. It is symbolized by the bambanti, the local term for scarecrow. The Bambanti Festival used to be celebrated every May, as part of Isabela Day, starting in 1997. But in 2013, Governor Faustino Dy III declared it as a separate festival held every January. Although the province has 34 municipalities and three cities, not all joined as some were still recovering from supertyphoon Lawin which devastated Isabela and surrounding provinces in October 2016.

Isabela as a premier agricultural province

It’s quite colorful, as the different municipalities of the province join and compete in the street dancing, the booth competition which showcases their own produce, in coming up with the best bambanti effigy, and many more. The Bambanti Village becomes the centerpiece of the festival, built at the sprawling Provincial Capitol grounds. Each municipal booth sells fresh produce and processed products. The event itself is a showcase of what Isabela has to offer the world.

But its not all about dancing and exhibition. The Bambanti Festival also showcases agri-technology with demos in project booths. Another interesting sidelight is the search for the best inabraw. This northern dish is a stew made of grilled fish and vegetables and is similar to pinakbet. Municipalities create their own versions.

It’s culmination day of the Bambanti Festival when it is the grandest. There are colorful street dancing, hiphop competition, the search for the Festival King and Queen, the best ensemble capped with an entertainment showcase from talents of ABS-CBN, a national TV network who prepared a musical, a variety show and amazing vocal talent from its stable of artists. Fireworks ended the Bambanti Festival 2017.

Bambanti Festival

Bambanti Festival celebrates the scarecrow and these dancers are dressed as one

Bambanti Festival

Yellow corn used to cover Tumauini’s booth

Bambanti Festival

The festival also conducts a food contest for the best INABRAW, a northern dish of fish and vegetables akin to pinakbet

Bambanti Festival

The different Bambanti booths of different Isabela municipalities highlights their major products

Bambanti Festival

An interesting booth decorated with yellow corn, from the municipality of San Isidro

Bambanti Festival

Dances, musical and entertainment during culmination night of Bambanti Festival

Bambanti Festival

Clockwise from top right: hiphop dance contest, the crowd gathered around the stage at the Ilagan Sports Complex, the festival grounds at the Isabela Capitol in Ilagan, and fireworks display

Bambanti Festival

The main stage on the last night of Bambanti Festival

Bambanti Festival

Festival King and Queen from one of the participating Isabela municipalities strut the stage

Bambanti Festival

Each municipality had its own contingent during presentation night

Bambanti Festival

The final night of the Bambanti Festival is a night of dance compeitions between the rival municipalities, interpreting a theme and showcasing their costumes and culture

Bambanti Festival

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The Bambanti Festival visit was made possible by the Office of the Provincial Governor of Isabela.

Bambanti Festival
Province of Isabela
23-28 January 2017

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

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