Now that safety protocols are easing out, the province of Isabela is taking advantage of the influx of tourists by starting off the year with a bang. The province’s annual celebration Bambanti Festival made its comeback after a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
True to its theme, “Isabela, Pagharap sa Bagong Hamon ng Kinabukasan,” the Bambanti Festival held its annual celebration from January 23 to 29 with an aim to train the spotlight on the province’s agricultural harvest as well as to promote its tourism industry.
During the week-long celebration, residents of each city and municipality get to highlight their rich culture and agricultural products in this year’s line of festivities such as booth presentations, a giant Bambanti display, a cooking competition, a costume exhibit, a beauty pageant, and street performances.
Being a primary source of rice and corn in the Philippines, Isabela has a large range of products to offer.
Local residents and travelers get a sneak preview of the province’s agricultural products with its agri-ecotourism exhibits at Bambanti Village.
Contingents are asked to design their booths using natural, organic, and biodegradable materials where they can display and sell products that their town is known of.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival is the Makan Ken Mainum. Unlike in previous years, aspiring young chefs ages 9 to 14 years old took the spotlight as representatives of each town tasked to create a unique dish and a drink using a local product.
Beauty of Isabelenos
This year also showcased the beauty of Isabelenos through its search for the next Queen Isabela. Among the 29 stunners, Miss San Manuel Catherine Joy Legaspi stood out and was hailed as the Queen Isabela 2023 alongside Miss Cauayan City Julie Mae Villanueva as Queen Isabela Tourism, and Miss Ramon Johanna Trisha Cinco as Queen Isabela Culture and Arts.
This year’s Bambanti also has its King and Queen Festival where traditional attires are also highlighted.
What surprised the tourists—oth local and foreign—was on how talented Isabelenos are that even when they were asked to sing on the spot, they could really nail it.
What is a festival without the most anticipated street dancing competition? On the fourth day, the crowd was graced by festive presentations of street dancers. Despite the occasional rain shower, it did not stop them from giving the performance of their life even with the cold breeze of the air.
It was then succeeded by a dance showdown and music festival featuring Isabela’s local artists. Singer-actor Gian Magdangal and Broadway singer Ima Castro also graced the event.
OPM band Agsunta and soul singer KZ Tandingan capped off the last day of the music festival, which was dramatically punctuated by a firework display.
Photos by Teddy Pelaez