Colorful Bambanti Festival Showcases World-Class Creativity and Heritage, Boosts Tourism in the Province of Isabela | Motourismo

Story and Photos By Arabelle Jimenez

Street Dancers at the Bambanti Festival 2023

Isabelinos returned with a vengeance after a three-year pandemic hiatus by celebrating the much-awaited Bambanti Festival 2023. Now on its tenth edition, it did not fall short of extravagant expectations. This week-long celebration happens every January of the year, and showcases the various talents of Isabelinos, highlighting their creativity, and embracing their heritage with gusto.

Bambanti, which means "scare crow", is now synonymous to fiesta or festival to Isabelinos, as they celebrate the harvest of their staple agricultural products, which is rice and corn. The bambantis are revered by the locals for protecting their crops from unwanted feathered-creatures who swoop down and devour miles and miles of corn in the Province of Isabela. Its capital, Ilagan City is called the Corn Capital of the Philippines, and is aptly so.

With the theme, "Isabela, Pagharap Sa Bagong Hamon Ng Kinabukasan", the festival signals the start of a "new future" , motivating Isabelinos to overcome challenges in an environment that has uncertainties in terms of economic growth, thus everyone should strengthen their socio-cultural development, and progress shall follow. 

With this in mind, the Bambanti Festival 2023 will definitely continue with a different perspective, inspiring every Isabelino to use his creativity and recognize his heritage through various arts, cultural, and even culinary activities.

Agri-Ecotourism Exhibit  

Under the sea theme by the Municipality of Palanan mainly used banig and rattan.

The four pillars of this year's Bambanti Festival highlighted the following:

Indigenous Handicraftscomposed of a rich collection of locally-made and certified products from each city and municipality.

Colorful handicrafts.

Heritage - a showcase of patterns, weaves, music, arts, languge, traditions and culture of the tribal communities of Gaddang, Ibanag, Togad, Ytaois, and Ilocano.

3rd Place winner of the Giant Bambanti Competition Category A goes to the Municipality of Divilacan.

Lifestyle Merchandise - handcrafted home accessories for dining entertaining, bedroom and living room, including furniture, linen and home decors.

Products from the Municipality of Ramon.

Cuisine - showcase exotic dishes from the traditional Isabela kitchens.

Squash Shrimps in Taragon Leaves, Chili and Coconut Milk.

Giant Bambanti Showcase

A province-wide "Search for the Best Giant Bambanti" was participated by all the Local Government Units (LGUs) in the Province of Isabela. Each official entry epitomized the character of the place and people it represents. This include their local culture, history, trade, industry, and physical environment.

Municipality of Luna uses rattan for their giant mermaid.

Corn husks and banig are the main materials of this 2nd Place winner of the Giant Bambanti Competition Category A from the Municipality of Alicia.

This fish-studded (sap-sap) giant is the 1st Place winner of the Giant Bambanti Competition Category A from the Municipality of Dinapigue.

Bambanti Street-Dance and Showdown Competition

The highlight and much-awaited event is the Bambanti Street-Dance Competition, which was a spectacular show of amazing talent, creativity, choreography, and music. Talented dancers showcased their unique dance movements with the theme or advocacy for agricultural progress, environment protection, and conservation.

There were 2,000 dancers from 20 municipalities who competed in this high-energy, and amazing Bambanti Street-Dance Competition.

Not to be taken lightly are the equally talented dancers at the Dance Showdown with numbers from the local choreographers. Singers from Sining Tanglawan were also well applauded, and the Whiplash Dance Company mesmerized their audience with their contemporary jazz dance routine.

Dance Showdown with numbers from the local choreographers of each Municipality.

Makan ken Mainum Culinary and Beverage Competition

It was a province-wide search for new discoveries of food and beverage, participated by each town and city, unlocking their delicious cuisines. Various delicacies were showcased by the thirty municipalities, using local ingredients found in their areas.

Le Crema Agria con Karne de Baka from the Municipality of San Pablo.

Lobsters from the Municipality of Ramon.

Caracao's smoothie from the Municipality of San Agustin.

Smoothie from the Municipality of Cauayan.

Queen Isabela Coronation Night

Newly crowned queens of Isabela from left, 2nd Runner-Up Ms. Cherry Lee Garlijo from the municipality of Alicia, Queen Isabela Culture and the Arts: Ms. Johanna Trisha C. Cinco from the municipality of Ramon, Queen Isabela 2023: Ms. Catherine Joy L. Legaspi from the municipality of San Manuel, Queen Isabela Tourism: Ms. Julie Mae Villanueva from the City of Cauayan. and 1st Runner-Up: Ms. Jaycel Lumauig representing the Indigenous Peoples Community.

Stunning candidates representing their Municipalities and Cities paraded on stage wearing queenly gowns which will make Miss Universe pagaents a run for their money. 

The annual search for the beauteous and intelligent Isabelena is a major event in every Bambanti Festival. The search also features very artistic creations of the various local designers interpreting Queen Isabela II of Spain, who are vying for the Best Creative Attire.

Spectacular staging of the Queen Isabela 2023 Coronation Night.

Thirty candidates, who are already queens in their own rights were trimmed down to top 10, top five, and ultimately the announcement of the top three winners who took the titles Queen Isabela, Isabela Queen Tourism, and Isabela Queen Culture and the Arts.

Grand Concert and Fireworks Display

The week-long festival culminated with a grand finale composed of a music festival and fireworks display. 

It was a real treat for Isabelinos to watch their favorite artists composed of world-class theater performers Ima Castro, Gian Magdangal, Carla Guevarra-Laforteza, Jep Go, Alyn Magadia, Fin Ramirez, and Myramae Meneses.

It was a real treat for Isabelinos to watch their favorite world-class artists.

At the concert grand party, the crowd went wild over rock artists Agsunta, and KZ Tandigan. Also filling up the Isabela Sports Complex are guests coming from different parts of the Philippines and abroad, who travelled all the way to Ilagan, Isabela to witness this spectacular week-long event.

Fireworks display at the end of the music festival.


Dance Showdown Category B

1st Place: Quirino

2nd Place: Sta. Maria

3rd Place: Luna 

Dance Showdown Category A

1st Place: Echague 

2nd Place: Alicia 

3rd Place: Santiago City

Street Dance Category B

1st Place: San Agustin

2nd Place: Quirino  

3rd Place: Sta. Maria

Street Dance Category A

1st Place: Cauayan City

2nd Place: Alicia  

3rd Place: Jones

Agri-Ecotourism Booth Category B

1st Place: Cordon

2nd Place: Quirino

3rd Place: Maconacon

Agri-Ecotourism Booth Category A

1st Place: Ilagan

2nd Place: Cauayan

3rd Place: Ramon

Giant Bambanti Category B

1st Place: Cabatuan

2nd Place: San Agustin

3rd Place: Quirino

Giant Bambanti Category A

1st Place: Dinapigue

2nd Place: Alicia

3rd Place: Divilacan

Makan ken Minum Culinary

1st Place: Santiago City

2nd Place: Timauini

3rd Place: San Agustin

Queen Isabela 2023

Queen Isabela 2023: Ms. Catherine Joy L. Legaspi from the municipality of San Manuel

Queen Isabela Tourism: Ms. Julie Mae Villanueva from the City of Cauayan

Queen Isabela Culture and the Arts: Ms. Johanna Trisha C. Cinco from the municipality of Ramon

1st Runner-Up: Ms. Jaycel Lumauig representing the Indigenous Peoples Community

2nd Runner-Up:  Ms. Cherry Lee Garlijo from the municipality of Alicia

Over-all Bambanti Festival 2023 Winner: Municipality of San Agustin

WATCH: Champions from Cauayan City's Street Dance Performance

For more details about the Bambanti Festival 2023, follow ISABELA PIO on Facebook.


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