Isabela’s dancing scarecrows…and more

By Bernard L. Supetran (Business Mirror) - February 18, 2018

Dubbed the “Queen Province of the North,” Isabela is regarded as the country’s agriculture powerhouse being the biggest producer of corn, the second-largest producer of rice and a host of other major crops. Sandwiched by the Sierra Madre and Cordillera mountain ranges, it boasts of vast fertile plantations as far as your eyes can see. 

In the middle of these sprawling farms are the ubiquitous scarecrows or straw human effigies, the old-fashioned figures used to keep birds away from feasting on the crops to ensure a bumper harvest.

So, when Isabela decided to throw a party to celebrate its bountiful yield, it can be no other than a tribute to its unlikely hero, which has been quietly helping them since for ages—the scarecrow, known locally as “bambanti.”

Thus, in 1997, the provincial government under then-Gov. Benjamin Dy formally introduced the Bambanti Festival to pay tribute to the farm icon through a colorful and well-choreographed parade of contingents from the towns mimicking the animated dance of the scarecrow if he is to come to life.

But what makes this festivity unique is the massive parade of some 1,000 dancers around the Isabela Sports Complex in a spectacular multimedia production putting the spotlight on the role of the tell-tale bambanti. A fusion of synchronized dance, and an opera- and ballet-type musical purposely-written for the event, the show could be easily compared to an opening number to the Olympic Games.

Coupled with cartoon animation, techno-pop music, and capped by a pyrotechnics display makes the show a cut above the rest, enough to make it a perennial winner in the Aliwan Fiesta competitions.