Why the Colorful Bambanti Festival is Worth The Road Trip to Isabela | James Tagle

Story and Photos By James Tagle

Isabelino dancers in bambanti "scarecrow" costumes.

“Ettam ngana Ta Isabela”, direct translation- “Let's go in Isabela” the theme of this year’s Bambanti Festival resonates fun and color in the Filipino psyche when it comes to festivals of all festivals. 

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.

Ready for street-dancing.

Isabela, the second-largest province in the nation, spans 12,414 square kilometres and is situated in the Cagayan Valley of Luzon. As a result of its reputation for agriculture and status as the maize capital of the Philippines, the Bambanti Festival honors the harvest of the previous year. The province's yearly festival seeks to strengthen ties amongst its citizens, highlight and protect its rich cultural legacy, and elevate regional businesses and goods. 

Fabulous staging of the Queen Isabela 2024.

The province marked the festival's return with a beauty pageant, a cooking competition, and street dancing contests, all set against the backdrop of agri-ecotourism booths from the towns and cities of the province that offered locally produced goods. The activities took place under the cold January weather and the odd downpour. The festival's preparations for this year started as early as June.

Culinary Arts competition.

The 34 municipalities that make up Isabela get together for the yearly festival mostly to participate in a range of friendly activities. The participants usually use crops or produce from their particular regions to create murals and enormous Bambanti/Scarecrows. 

Today, the province leads the country in both maize production and rice production per capita. Isabela is home to enormous marshes and farmland, and it produces most of the vegetables consumed in the country, making the Province, aside from Manila, one of the richest.

Welcome display to the agri-ecotourism booths.

As a first time attendee of the Bambanti Festival, I didn’t really expect much, but I was in for a treat. The LGU’s running the festival spared no expense in entertainment. Food was everywhere, laughs all around and the company we were with was an absolute blast! 

The Bambanti Village acts as the main hub of the Festival located at the Provincial Capitol Grounds in Iligan City. Talking to the representatives from each municipality was a breeze. They were happy to answer any questions I had or amuse me if I were interested in agriculture or have general inquiries about farming and fresh produce. 

The Bambanti revelers' after-party.

The level of ingenuity and craftsmanship at Bambanti Village was truly astounding. You are able to see the time and dedication the people had in making their respective booths for the “Agri-Ecotourism” fair. 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.

It is reasonable to say that the IsabeleƱos take great pride and happiness in the Bambanti Festival. It's a remarkable week-long event that genuinely fosters friendly rivalry among Isabela residents.

Fireworks display at the Grand Finale.

Although it may not have the same level of popularity as other province festivals like Sinulog Festival of Cebu, the Bambanti Festival is nevertheless one of the best in the nation. I may not be an expert on Philippine Festivals, but coming to Isabela for the first time and it happened to be the 2024 Bambanti Festival, it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in awhile. 

So if you’re planning a trip to Isabela during January, make time to visit Bambanti Festival. You will not regret it. 




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