Isabela consist of 34 municipalities and 3 cities in a province. It is the second largest province in the country. The vast area consist of agricultural plains, forested areas of the Sierra Madres and coastal towns. As one of the top corn producers in the country, Isabela found the bambanti, an Ilocano term for scarecrow, as a significant icon, symbolizing Isabela farmer’s diligence and resoluteness to earn his keep, feed his family and produce for the community. Hence the Bambanti Festival was born in January 2013. It aims to unite the municipalities, showcase their creativity, unique products and increase tourism.
There was this undeniable rhythm to his every paddle. A smooth motion like a clock gear yet with precise force enough to propel his sibid-sibid, a local term for a small boat, forward. I call him the “man in the middle”, as he was positioned on the starting line with four others participating in the Bankarera 2015 competition, one of the key events of this year’s Isla Rancho Festival in San Pascual, Burias Island, Masbate. While the “Man-in-the-middle” was nowhere ahead at the race launch, now here he is pitted neck-and-neck with another strong paddler. Who will win this race? I never thought a small boat race like this would be exciting to watch.
With so many festivals in the country, why check out the Isla Rancho Festival in San Pascual, Masbate? In a province known mainly for its vast fields for grazing cattle and cowboys overlooking the many ranches of its three islands, it is interesting to see how this cowboy culture is infused with their celebration in reverence to their patron saint San Pascual. The Isla Rancho Festival Streetdance competition was one of the highlights of their 8-day Isla Rancho Festival. This colorful spectacle from performances from eight groups of the 22 villages in San Pascual creatively showcased the traditional festive atmosphere similar to many popular festivals in the country with a unique cowboy kick twist.
I’ve seldom talked about how Sagada has changed throughout the years. Yes, the roads have been paved for better access, more tourist are coming in, internet connectivity is just about everywhere and more structures being built to accommodate them. Despite the developments, Sagada’s is still rooted to their traditional cultural practices. One of this significant rituals is the Begnas, a rice thanksgiving ritual that usually happens three times a year. We were lucky to be there to witness their pre-planting ritual. It was a three-day event and the 2nd day was the time when the “Indians March”.
It was a feast to the senses. The vibrant colors move in a captivating array of patterns in purple, gold and rich green. The choreography was so just entertaining and their Pangalay (a type of Muslim dance) was just hypnotic in its graceful body movement paired with the elegant gestures of their fingers. I just came back in Tawi-tawi after more than five years since my last visit and already, I’m bombarded by this showcase of Sama culture in this Agal-agal Festival. Agal-agal is the local Sinama term for seaweed, an abundant commodity of Tawi-tawi. I can say what a festive way to welcome my return to the southernmost province of the country.
September in Iligan City is the month-long celebration of the Dyandi Festival. Originally a rite performed by the Dumagats, Maranaos and the Higaonons to pay homage to their patron saint, Saint Michael. It’s a multi-cultural celebration passed through generations now practiced by Christians, Muslims and the natives. It was in 2004 when the city established the Dyandi Festival as their tourism identity. Among the highlight of this month-long revelry is the Kasadya Streetdancing Competition.
With 18 different indigenous groups living in the valleys and mountain regions of Nueva Vizcaya, it is so fitting to use the native Gaddang word “Ammungan” as the province’s festival title. It is also an Iluko word from “ummungan” which is commonly understood by the different ethnic tribes which means “to gather together”. Last week from May 21-24, 2014, the Ammungan Festival 2014 was celebrated and one of the highlights of this 4-day revelry was the Street Dancing Parade and Competition. 10 out of the 15 municipalities gathered together in Solano to showcase the uniqueness of their hometown and the characteristics of their people through music, costumes and dance.