Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bambanti Festival

When someone says the word scarecrow my mind always conjures up the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. It’s the quintessential image of a scarecrow. Well, last Thursday, January 29, that classic image was blown away when I attended the Bambanti (Bum-bahn-tee) Festival of the Province of Isabela. 

Bambanti is the Ilocano word for scarecrow. Each year at the end of January, the Province of Isabela pays homage to the loyal duty of the scarecrow, keeping away birds from the fields and providing them with a plentiful harvest. The festival lasts for about a week. 

As Sir Junior, Sir Patrick, Ma’am Sandra, and I drove up to Ilagan, capital of the province, I had no idea what to expect. Neither did they because they’d never attended. The Bambanti Village is located in front of the Provincial Capitol building. Each municipality sets up an intricately decorated booth displaying not only their bambanti but also their specialized products.  

Some booths and bambantis were specifically made of items that municipality is known for such as mollusks shells or dried fish or rattan baskets or vegetables. Others represented their municipality by displaying costumes or recreating other aspects. This year’s theme was “flying high.” On top of representing their municipality, each bambanti also encompassed the theme. 

If I were a crow, I'd definitely be scared!

Ma'am Sandra in front of her municipality's display representing the dam.
Yes, the water is actually running!

This booth was two stories!

What I didn’t realize upon arriving that the festival acts also as a trade market. At each booth they were selling products ranging from vegetables to woven purses to beaded jewelry to baskets to wine and jellies. One big farmers market. Amazing! I fell in love. I really wanted to buy one of everything but then had to remember my suitcase space for when I return. I did buy one thing that I won’t be able to bring back but will cherish every minute I’m here – a rattan chair from the Echague booth. In addition, I bought a bottle of delicious bugnay wine, which I got to taste test, and a bamboo tray.  

Lots of people in narrow aisle. 
Yes, those are tiny dried fish. 

One of my favorite bambantis of the day!
This one is made of mollusk and mussel shells!

Bought a bottle of this delicious bugnay wine! Wish I'd bought more.

After a couple of hours, our stomachs began grumbling, the crowd was thickening, and the sun began beating down. We decided to call it a day since we’d explored every booth. There was going to be street dancing and some other performances but not for another couple of hours. We piled into the car and headed to a scrumptious lunch in Cuayan. 

Not only did I love witnessing a local, cultural festival but also, seeing the pride people take in where they come from and the products they make! An added bonus – I didn’t have to go work that day. 

Thanks for reading!

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