GMA News Online

Bambanti Festival to highlight investment, tourism appeal of Isabela

December 6, 2012 2:57pm

The provincial government of Isabela is hosting the P20-million, four-day Bambanti Festival in January to attract investors to the province and to promote its potential as an eco-tourism destination.

Isabela ranks second among provinces in land area, but unlike Palawan which ranks first, its land area is contiguous. The bambanti or scarecrow is the central image of the celebration as it is omnipresent in the province’s predominantly agricultural landscape.

Speaking for Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy, festival chairman Tonypet Albano told GMA News Online that the cost of the festivities will be funded in part through seed money from the provincial government and donations from private companies that have located there or are planning to locate there.

According to the handbook "Invest in Isabela Northern Philippines," the top three investors in the province are the SN/Aboitiz Power group with its 360-megawatt Magat hydroelectric power plant; Green Future Innovations Inc. with its 54-million-liter ethanol plant (a joint venture between Japanese, Taiwanese and Filipino firms); and the Mindanao Grains Processing Co. with its P500-million Reina Mercedes Corn Processing Center, inaugurated by President Aquino in 2010.

Other locators in the province are multinational oil firms Chevron, Petron and Shell, with the new players following suit; telecommunications giants Smart and Globe; soft-drink makers Coca-Cola and Pepsi; SM and Robinsons centers; and fast-food chains McDonalds, Jollibee, Chowking, Mang Inasal and Goldilocks.

The province is the biggest grower of corn and mongo in the Philippines and also produces timber, woodcraft and furniture and processed meat. To allay the fears of its tobacco farmers about the sin taxes, Albano said they will use their share of the  excise tax to retrain and transition tobacco farmers in the cultivation of other high-value crops.

Now the second top producer of rice, Isabela aims to become the largest when two new dams in Ilagan and San Mariano as well as other irrigation systems promised by President Aquino are built. At present, Isabela is home to the Magat Dam, the biggest in the country.

Isabela's poultry, livestock and fisheries sectors are also on the rise.

Isabela's attractions includes its cuisine, particularly the popular Pancit Cabagan with chicharon on top and rice delicacies like binallay and patupat, two kinds of suman.

Its eco-tourism attractions include cave exploration, trekking and beach-combing on its 113-kilometer white sand coastline.

Regarding peace and order, “Everybody has a lot of money now so they are getting away from the leftists even though Isabela is the birthplace of the New People’s Army,” Albano said.

Among the attractions of the Bambanti Festival are an original musical with a cast of thousands, the Best Giant Magical Bambanti (each 12 feet tall), street dances, the Festival King and Queen and concerts by Jed Madela, Vina Morales, Sarah Geronimo and Christian Bautista. — BM, GMA News
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