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Bambanti Festival in Isabela 2018: A Celebration of Bountiful Harvest in the Queen Province of the Philippines

Isabela, Philippines
Bambanti Festival in Isabela 2018

It was my first time in Isabela to join the province's 2018 Bambanti Festival. Last year, I was so honored to see Guling Guling Festival in Paoay, Kadayawan Festival in Davao, Ati-atihan Festival in  Aklan, Kasanggayahan Festival in Sorsogon, Paray Festival in Irosin and Tan-ok Festival in Ilocos Norte. Having seen some of the Philippines' biggest and brightest festivals, I can say Bambanti is one of those. A province known as the Philippines' agricultural backbone, Isabela gives back to the locals by conducting an annual fiesta honoring the people who work hard to produce the best harvest and to make sure that this will be a legacy that will forever be observed by Isabelans. 

Bambanti Village in Isabela

History of Bambanti Festival
It was in 1997 when the first ever Bambanti Festival celebrated - thanks to former Governor Benjamin Dy and his wife Cecil.  Fast forward to today, Bambanti Festival of Isabela has evolved into a grand commemoration how hardworking the people of this province and how blessed is their land that is able to grow world-class agriculture products as reflected on its theme this year which is "Isabela Kong Mahal". The word "bambanti" is the local equivalent of scarecrow, a makeshift human-like figure made of a tall piece of wood erected and dressed with old clothes (shirt and pants) to drive away birds that eat crops

Isabela Bambanti Festival

Introduction to Isabela
Please watch out for my travel guide to Isabela: What to do and where to stay blog post after this. For now, let me give you a brief background of this province.  Isabela is the Philippines' biggest province in terms of land area occupying 3.5% of the country's territory. It is composed of 34 municipalities and 3 cities in in the northeastern part of Luzon, bounded on the north by Cagayan, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Aurora, and on the west by the provinces of Kalinga, Mt. Province, and Ifugao.

Bambanti Festival Isabela

Activities, highlights, showdowns and contests at the 2018 Bambanti Festival
There was never a dull moment in the 5 days of staying in Isabela joining the Bambanti Festival. Every day we have interesting activities that made our stay in this province something to cherish. Please check below:

1. Bambanti Village - The place where  Isabelenyos showcased their products such as local food, buri hats, rice wines, corns and a lot more inside beautifully crafted booths that feature every town's local produce.
2. Makan Ken Mainum - This is a cooking contest that promotes the use of the local herbs, spices and ingredients of Isabela's products. This is a massive cook-off with a total of close to a hundred participants done live and judged by some of the Philippines' and the world's culinary experts.
3. Chorale competition - This is a singing contest for groups promoting mostly OPM love songs.

and of course, the most-awaited is the Street Dance Competition in Bambanti Festival    
Isabela Bambanti Festival

Unlike other famous Philippine festivals I have attended, Bambanti Festival's the dance showdown is done in Ilagan Sports Complex - a round shaped stadium that reminds me of the Araneta Coliseum here in Manila. Also, this is done late afternoon and often finishes close to midnight.Here's the list of participants grouped per municipality for 2018 Bambanti Festival of Isabela:

Echague - Mengal Festival
Reina Mercedes - Padarayaw Festival  
Benito Soliven - Sabunganay Festival
Burgos - Inuruban Festival
Cauayan City - Gwagaway-an Festival
San Pablo - Baka Festival
Ramon - Tilapia Festival
Angadanan - Gakit Festival
Cabatuan - Kankanen Festival
San Manuel - Cariada Festival
Pinilisa Festival - Jones
Ilagan - Manmmangi Festival
Alicia- Balitok Ti Alicia
San Agustin - Nuang Festival
San Mateo - Balatong Festival
Luna - Bato Art Festival
Aurora - Calamansi Festival
Roxas - Pinakbet Festival
Quirino - Barahiw Festival
Dinapige - Hilada Festival
Cordon - Manalon Festival
Mallig - Nateng Festival

Twenty (20) towns and two (2) cities vied for Bambanti's grand prize which is worth Php1.5 million of community project. This is one of the highest amount of prize for a local festival here in the Philippines I have ever heard! Every year the governor's office gives Php 100, 000 for every participating town to help them with the expenses and the preparation for Bambanti Festival. Also, the price for the Isabela's Bambanti Festival increases annually. Last year, the grand winner took home Php 1 million but this year it was 500, 000 more! 

Governor of Isabela Benjamin Dy

List of Winners of Isabela's Bambanti Festival 2018

Overall Champion
Cauayan City - 1st Place 235 points 
Alicia - 2nd Place 215 points
San Agustin - 3rd Place 150 points
Echague - 4th Place 130 points
Jones - 110 points

Best Choral Group
Echague - 1st Place 95.20%
City of Isabela - 2nd Place 87.77%
Alicia - 3rd Place 85.70%

Best Makan Ti Isabela
Echague - 1st Place
San Manuel - 2nd Place
Tumauini - 3rd Place
San Mateo - 4th Place


Best Mainum Ti Isabela
Echague - 1st Place
Luna - 2nd Place
Tumauini - 3rd Place
Roxas - 4th Place


Best Festival King Costume
San Agustin - 1st Place
Cauayan City - 2nd Place
San Mateo - 3rd Place
Cabatuan - 4th Place

Best Festival Queen 
Cauayan City - Winner
San Agustin - 1st Place
Cauayan City - 2nd Place
San Mateo - 3rd Place


Best Festival King
San Agustin - Winner
Alicia - 1st Place
Cauayan City - 2nd Place

Best Giant Bambanti Installation
Burgos - 1st Place
Echague -  2nd Place
Cauayan City - 3rd Place
Jones - 4th Place

Cordon - 5th Place

Best Agri-tourism Booth
Nagulian - 1st Place
Jones - 2nd Place
3rd Place - Cauayan City
4th Place - Echague
5th Place - San Agustin

Best Streetdance Contingent
Alicia - - 1st Place
Ramon - 2nd Place
Cauayan City - 3rd Place
Quirino - 4th Place
Mallig - 5th Place

Best Streetdance 1st place Bambanti Festival Alicia

Best Dance Showdown
Alicia - 1st Place
Luna - 2nd Place
Cauayan City - 3rd Place
Mallig - 4th Place
San Pablo - 5th Place

The last night of Isabela's Bambanti Festival was capped off with a grandiose performance of very talented local performers, Ogie Alcasid, Jona Viray, McLisse loveteam and the group 4th Impact who are proudly Isabelans who became famous after finishing a runner-up in on X Factor UK.  The province of Isabela really know how to treat its people really well. I, along with other guests from other parts of the country and the world have nothing but praises how the Bambanti Festival happened in peace and great execution. 

I made a blog post about ISABELA PROVINCE TRAVEL GUIDE : TOURIST SPOTS, THINGS TO DO AND ATTRACTIONS YOU SHOULD VISIT two years ago. You can click HERE to read it while I am doing my updated Isabela DIY itinerary now that I have finally seen Isabela myself. 

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