by Pauline Songco, Staff Writer

The Daily Tribune, 12 Mar 2018

To liken oneself to a scarecrow is no common act for the people of Isabela. Stick figures dressed in tattered but colorful hand-me-downs, the Bambanti, an Ilocano term for “scarecrow”, greatly resembles the people living in this province: inventive, diligent, focused and resourceful.

            Often hoisted in fields to fend off birds, pests and other forms of threats to their crops, the Bambanti has become a symbol of a farmer’s determination to earn what he planted, feed his family and produce for his community.

            The Bambanti has also a great reminder of an Isabeleños relentless attitude, the kind that is persistent amidst storms that frequently visit the province, a fact that stands true to what Isabela had experienced seven years ago with typhoon Juan.

            Nevertheless, the Bambanti symbolizes the province of Isabela’s national economic presence as the country’s center of agriculture and in the future the premier agro-industrial hub in the pacific.

            Founded on May 1, 1856, through a royal decree by the Spanish government, the province of Isabela, named after Queen Isabela II of Spain, has 34 municipalities and three cities, allproducing  high-value agriculture crops that serve as their representation. These are showcased during the annual Bambanti Festival.


             The municipality of Ramon occupies 13,500 hectares of land, 7,600 hecyares of which are used for agriculture. Eighty percent of said lands are used to plant corn, monggo and other vegetables twice a year. Meanwhile, 80,000 metric tons of harvested in a year in the municipality. Ten percent of the land are allocated for monggo,  25,000 kilograms per hectare of which are harvested annually. After the harvest season, the lands are used for pasturing ducks, while 1,520 hectares are converted to fish pens where 35,000 kilograms of tilapia can be harvested.

            The municipality of San Isidro is home of the Patik Festival. The design of its booth depicts Queen Isabela wearing a crown that has 13 pronged sides, symbolizing the barangays that make up the town of San Isidro. The clothes that Queen Isabela wears is made out of cogon, seeds of bitswelas, mais, sacks and duck fur.

            For the municipality of Quirino, the booth is made out of wood and its Bambanti appears to hold a woven bag made out of corn husk, a material available in the municipality all year round.

            The booth of the municipality of Alicia honors the seat of Catholicism in the province of Isabela. The old church, Parish of Our Lady of Atocha, was constructed by the Spanish conquistadores in 1771 and was only in full use in 1849. It was built in an old town named Angadanan in Viejo, which later on was called municipality of Alicia by the late president Elpidio Quirino in honor of his wife.

            The municipality of Aurora is known as the great calamansi producer of Isabela. The soil that stretches along the Magat River best suits the citrus plant while all other parts of the town are planted with tobacco, corn, rice and vegetables. The calamansi business has very much improved the economy of Aurora by hiring pickers and weeders for a whole year, compared to seasonal workers.

            The municipality of Mallig’s vivid and vibrant booth is inspired by its top agricultural crop, kalabasa. Coconut husks are made to appear like the squash, which also symbolizes the bountiful harvest, a humble aim of every Malligueno.

             Angadanan’s Bambanti booth depicts the use of Bamboo, which is made into a raft, commonly known as balsa. It is known as the primary mode of transportation along Cagayan River. Gakit, a Gaddang term for balsa, is made of several bamboo poles bonded together using bamban or bamboo ropes. It was used by the natives to cross from east to west districts of the municipality to deliver goods within the town.

            The municipality of San Mateo likens its booth to a mother and child. It showcases the resident’s love for their product Balatong commonly known as Munggo. The town produces majority of the crop for the country, earning the title “Munggo Capital of the Philippines.”

            Delfin Albano’s booth bespeaks of the simplicity and resiliency of every Delfin Albanian. The booth is made out of various species of Bamboo to symbolize the Filipino proverbial resilience amidst the tests of time. It also features the Bangkakera Festival, which is usually celebrated every month of March.

            Palanan’s booth represents the town’s best-kept treasures. It features the municipality’s rich agricultural resources and beautiful beaches that can be likened to Boracay Island. The Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world, is found in the 16-hectare Palanan Forest Dynamics Plot. It became an instant tourist attraction of the town after it was discovered by Leonard Co, botanist and adopted son of Palanan. Different Sabutan products are on display in their booth. Sabutan, a plant that grows along coastal areas of Palanan, are used by women in making mats, bags, hats and fans. The town also observes Sabutan Festival, an effort to imitate the Dumagas, who are aborigines of the Philippines.

            One of the booths included in the Bambanti Villages is the Japanese Tunnel. It represents the real Ilagan Japanese Tunnel to anchor the long told story and historical facts that indeed the town of Ilagan played a significant role in the history of Isabela during Japanese occupation. The Japanese tunnel remains as one of several surviving tunnels in Ilagan. It was later on restored, rehabilitated and preserved by the local government to serve as an important historical landmark.

            The Ilagan Japanese tunnel holds barrels, helmet, swords and replicas of Japanese bombs, which are now unfortunately severly damaged and irredeemable for display.

            The bambanti Festival also aims to drive tourism for the province of Isabela. Aside from Agriculture, the province has an ecologically sound and calming suburban environment. People would be surprised to find they can do caving explorations in the province, trekking, beachcombing and most especially culinary excursions to try Ilagan’s binallay and patupat rice concoctions, Cauayan City’s mushrooms products and famous pancit Cabagan.

            The Bambanti Festival is a three-time winner of Aliw Awards, bringing home the title of Best Festival Practices and Performance from 2015 to 2017. As someone who has seen and experienced the festival for the first time, this writer can attest to its richness and texture. People should come and visit the province personally to get a glimpse of the locals’ innate talents and Isabela’s hidden beauty.