Bambanti Festival is an annual cultural and thanksgiving festival in the province of Isabela, Philippines every fourth week of January. A week-long celebration and the biggest festival in the province, it is also known as Isabela’s Scarecrow Festival. It is a multi-awarded event, having garnered the Aliw Award for Best Festivals Practices and Performance from 2015 to 2017 and the Aliw Award Hall of Fame in 2018.
History of Bambanti Festival
Bambanti Festival comes from the word bambanti, the word in the Ilocano language for scarecrow. The first Bambanti Festival was launched in 1997. It was created under the leadership of Benjamin Dy to celebrate the founding of Isabela.
Scarecrows are makeshift, human-like objects that are put up in farms, fields, and paddies to discourage birds from picking crops like corn and rice. Made from a wooden frame with a crosswise bar for arms and usually has a threadbare shirt on stuffed with grass or straw to shape its body, it is an effective, age-old practice of controlling birds who can become pests that can ruin farm produce.
Scarecrows have become a symbol for Isabela, a largely agricultural province that ranks the highest in terms of corn production, second in producing rice, and top producer of mung beans. In 2019, it achieved the Guinness World Record for the most number of people assembled dressed as scarecrows.
For years, the festival was held in the month of May. However, it has been deferred a few times as it coincides with the month that the country holds elections. It was also stopped for several years. Thus starting in 2011 under Faustino G. Dy III, it was revived and moved to January. Another reason for such change was that the first month of every year has more favorable weather.
Scarecrow is also the centerpiece of Pahoy-Pahoy Festival in the town of Calbiga, Samar.
History of Isabela
As a province, it is located in the northeastern side of the island of Luzon and part of the Cagayan Valley. It is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east and its borders run along nearby provinces of Cagayan, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Quirino, and Aurora.
In the past, it was inhabited by people of Aeta race followed by Indonesian migrants and the Malays. They resided in the region that is considered the Cagayan Valley. During the Spanish colonial rule, it was named La Provincia del Valle de Cagayan. It was a huge territory, and by 1841 it was split into the provinces of Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya through a royal decree. Its partition was meant to facilitate closer and stronger authority on the natives.
Isabela was created from the provinces of Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. A royal decree that was released on May 1, 1856 established the province and it was called Isabela de Luzon. It was named after Queen Isabela II of Spain. It is this date that the Bambanti Festival commemorates.
Bambanti Festival Activities
Bambanti Festival activities reflect the bounty of the harvest in the lands of Isabela, the talents of its people, and its vibrant cultural heritage. There are Singing Idol and Glee, chorale show and contests, medical mission, sporting events, fun run, fund-raising for charitable causes, concerts, entertainment and cultural and variety shows, fireworks display, street dance, and festival dance showdown. Contests for scarecrow puppets, dress-ups, and installations also take place.
Here are some of the highlights.
Bambanti Village is where the agri-trade fair is conducted. Participants are the towns and cities of Isabela which put on display booths their local products, special delicacies, handicrafts, other items that are proudly locally made, and beautiful tourist attractions. Moreover each locality comes up with creative ways to decorate their respective booths.
Makan Ken Mainum
Makan Ken Mainum is a fest of food and beverage. Makan is a local noodles made of cassava, corn, and rice. On the other hand, mainum refers to juices and fermented drinks that are produced locally. Conceptualized by Mary Ann Arcega-Dy, its highlight is the cooking competition. Each locality sends their representative to the culinary contest. The competition generally challenges them to give a new twist to traditional Filipino recipes like longanisa using commonly found ingredients.
Festival King and Queen
Festival King and Queen are chosen as the best festival dancers. They are judged according to their grace and the beautiful, visually striking attires as they perform. They are representatives of the towns and cities, and their costumes reflect the local festivals that they hold where they come from.
Queen Isabela is a prestigious beauty pageant for females. It was launched in 2020 for the first time. Candidates represent their town or city and compete in various events.
How to reach Isabela
There are two airports that have regular flights from Manila. One is through Tuguegarao City Airport which has two daily flights and another is through Cauayan City Airport that has once-a-day flight. Land trips are also available from Metro Manila.
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- Delos Reyes, Anton. Smiling scarecrows at the Bambanti Festival. Malaya Business Insight. February 28, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2022
- Isabela: Most Populated Province in Cagayan Valley. Philippine Statistics Office. July 30, 2002. Retrieved September 9, 2022
- History and Culture. Provincial Government of Isabel. Retrieved September 9, 2022
- Visaya, Vince Jacob A. Bambanti festival deemed a success. The Manila Times. February 4, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2022
- Soliven, Benito. Bambanti Festival shows Isabela’s history and heritage. The Philippine Star through Pressreader. March 26, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2022
- Merlito, Edale. Week-long 2018 Bambanti festival begins. Philippine News Agency. January 22, 2018. Retrieved September 9, 2022
- Garcia, Angelo. Bambanti showcases Isabela’s produce, food, people. ABS-CBN News. February 3, 2018. Retrieved September 9, 2022
- January 27 is a special non-working day in Isabela. Manila Bulletin. July 13, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2022
- Villano, Alex. Isabela’s Bambanti festival is not just about scarecrows. Rappler. February 5, 2018. Retrieved September 9, 2022