Another feather now adorns the hat of Isabela’s Bambanti as it gained the most coveted recognition in the 2019 Pearl Awards for Best Tourism Practices of the Philippines given by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines‘ (ATOP) as the Grand Winner, Best Tourism Event  - Festival as Thanksgiving For A Beautiful Harvest held in front of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte on October 4, 2019.

The Bambanti Festival won the said award besting 4 other finalists namely; Begnas ti Bauko of the municipality of Bauko, Mountain Province; Kneeling Carabao Festival of the municipality of Pulilan, Bulacan; Pista’y Dayat of the province of Pangasinan; and Simballay Festival of the municipality of Nabunturan, Compostela Valley.

Started in 2005, the Pearl Awards of the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines celebrates the best in the tourism industry and honors the great efforts made by the people in the industry, most especially the Local Government Units. “Creating works and exceptional services are not going to be ignored or taken for granted but instead it should be noticed and recognized and will be publicized to provide visibility and recognition as rewards for such noble deeds,” notes ATOP in giving the awards.


Isabela Tourism Officer Miano said that Governor Rodito Albano III endorsed the official entry of the province for the Best Tourism Event – as a Thanksgiving for a Bountiful Harvest category with a bid book carefully crafted and prepared by the Isabela Tourism Office. The coverage of the entry was Bambanti-Festival 2018. A week after its endorsement, DOT sent a notice to the Provincial Government of Isabela to defend the entry. At least 22 local government units from across the country defended their entries for the festival category in final screening held at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. Miano, with backing from Mr. Nilo Agustin poured out all vital justification to convince the three-man panel of judges is a five-minute interview that the Isabela Bambanti Festival is indeed the best tourism event in the country.

The Best Tourism Event (Festival) was divided into six categories – nature worship/or myths and legends thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, as a commemorative to historical events, a religious practice to honor community saints, showcase of productivity and trade and contemporary/non-traditional expression.

Festival as Thanksgiving for a Bountiful Harvest category must capture the expression of community saints. With the indelible impression of the Catholic faith across the archipelago which has been locally contextualized, numerous celebrations throughout the calendar are invaluable gratitude of local folks on the fruits and harvest that they receive from agriculture and nature. Whether in terrestrial or marine setting, the bountiful harvest reflects not just the abundance and benevolence of Philippine environs but the hard work and perseverance, sense of harmony and community of Filipinos.

The province of Isabela celebrates the farmer’s helpers known in the province as bambanti – with a festival every fourth week of January. The Bambanti is the ultimate symbol of the diligence, vigilance and resilience of the people of Isabela which the late Fr. Ingeno Rapadas regarded as the symbol of people’s spirituality because of its resemblance to the crucified Christ.

In 2014, the Bambanti festival float won the grand prize at the prestigious Aliwan Fiesta, besting entries from more established festivals like the Utanon Festival float of Cebu and the Panagbenga Festival float of Baguio City. Aliwan is known as the “mother of all festival.”

Cannes best director laureate Brillante Mendoza also served as juror in previous Bambanti festivals. He was so inspired by what he saw, that he produced a film entitled Bambanti, topbilled by Allesandra de Rossi and directed by Zig Dulay. It was hailed Best Film in the 2015 Brussels Film Festival in Belgium.

National artist and Aliw Awards founder, Ms. Alice Reyes poetically described the Bambanti Festival, “Songs, music, dance, the arts… they are feeding and nurturing the spirit and the soul, making the Isabeleño a very whole being. The stomach is full, the spirits are lifted with pride and the heart is filled with song and dance and poetry and the arts…” Ms. Reyes was guest of honor during the opening ceremonies of the Bambanti Festival in 2018

The Bambanti Festival also shared the Aliw Awards stage annually with the brightest stars and performance of the local entertainment industry in three consecutive years of 2015, 2016, 2017 and on 2018 for its Hall of Fame Award for Best Festival practices and Performance.

One month after the elevation to the elite Aliw Awards Hall of Fame, the Bambanti Festival set a new Guinness world record in 2019 for gathering  2,495 street dancers dressed as scarecrows and performing non-stop for two hours.