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Ettam Ngana ta Bambanti: Isabela Celebrates their 2024 Festival of Scarecrows

Bambanti 2024

The Queen Province of the North Celebrates the Bambanti Festival 2024

Ettam ngana… ta Bambanti! Ettam ngana… ta Isabela!” goes the zestful jingle that thundered for days at the expansive complex of Isabela Provincial Capitol, the center for the activities of the annual Bambanti Festival.

Bambanti 2024

This year’s theme, an Ibanag phrase, “Ettam Ngana ta Isabela!” (Let’s Go to Isabela!), beckons visitors to experience the rich culture, arts and heritage, as well as the diverse agricultural bounties and tourism jewels that Isabela has to offer. The week-long celebration immersed both Isabeleños and guests through music festivals, fun fitness activities, different competitions and cultural exhibits that showcased the treasures of the so-called “Queen Province of the North.”

The Land of Bambanti

In the capital Ilagan, there’s the Mammangi Festival that fetes the abundance of corn and the city’s corn farmers. The same goes for the towns of San Mateo for its balatong or munggo (mung beans), San Pablo for its baka (cattle), Benito Soliven for its sabunganay (banana blossom) and Aurora for its calamansi harvest. Each of Isabela’s three cities and 34 municipalities holds its own yearly agricultural and/or cultural celebration, but the Bambanti Festival is the grandest, celebrated by the entire province. Isabela’s “mother of all festivals” is a tribute to the scarecrow, or what they call “bambanti” in Ilocano.

Entrance to the Bambanti Village
Entrance to the Bambanti Village

Why the scarecrow?,” asked veteran writer Amadis Ma. Guerrero during the press conference held in Cauayan City, noting that “scaring off” or the scarecrow itself carries a negative connotation.

The human-like figures, usually made out of hay, straw and wooden poles, and dressed in layers of colorful yet tattered hand-me-downs, are a common sight amidst the vast fertile fields of Isabela—the Philippines’ second largest province in terms of land area, whose economy relies largely on agriculture.

These scarecrows, strange-looking and often depicted in pop culture as horrifying objects, repel birds and other pests that prey upon crops, thus considered the farmers’ allies in ensuring a bountiful harvest. They are the watch guards or protectors of Isabela’s agricultural lands, the “sentinels of the fields” as the Isabela Tourism Office describes them in their newly-launched coffee table book.

Touted as the country’s corn and munggo capital and among…

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