ISABELA is blessed with water, a complementary natural resource through the Magat River Integrated Irrigation System (MARIIS) irrigating about 85,000 hectares of farm lands.
Produced on a large scale in the province are premium-quality grain crops, like rice and corn, leading to the naming of the province as the new rice granary of the Philippines.
The Department of Agriculture said the province produced 1,049,954 MT of corn and 1,068,275 metric tons of rice last cropping year.
With the sustainability of these golden yields, the province was awarded Top Corn Producer in the Philippines and second in rice production.
Believed to be the biggest in Southeast Asia established by the Mindanao Grains Processing Co. and the Philippine Maize Federation Inc., a P750-million corn-processing plant inaugurated by President Aquino in October 2010 in Reina Mercedes town is seen to have answered the major postharvest problems confronting corn farmers in the region.
The province is host to the Magat Hydroelectric Dam, also the biggest multipurpose dam in Southeast Asia, that generates 360 megawatts of power to the Luzon grid, now operated by SN/Aboitiz Power.
Named after Her Majesty, Queen Isabella of Spain, the province was taken from the ribs of Nueva Vizcaya and Cagayan provinces by virtue of a royal decree issued on May 1, 1856. Next to Palawan, the “Queen Province Up North” is the second-biggest province in the Philippines.
With predominantly rich agricultural terrain, it straddles the heart of Cagayan Valley, bordered by the Northern Sierra Madre mountain range in the east and the Cordilleras in the west.
Host to abundant exotic marine resources, like blue marlins and lobsters, are four coastal towns at the Pacific Rim with additional tourist attractions like the white-sand beach of Honeymoon Island in Divilacan town and the blue lagoon nestled in a Palanan rain forest.
A joint venture among Japanese, Taiwanese and Filipino partners, Green Future Innovations Inc. has erected a 54-million-liter ethanol plant in San Mariano town. The multinational investment has substantially converted many idle lands in the province into lucrative sugarcane farms. The town also pioneered in honeybee culture through the Isabela State University (San Mariano) apiculture department.
Home to multiawarded rice breeders and dubbed as the “Pinakbet Capital of the Philippines,” the first-class municipality of Roxas in the Mallig Plains is now the fastest-growing municipality in Isabela and in the entire Cagayan Valley region, with malls and fast-food chains growing like mushrooms in town. Twelve are in banking and finance.
As added strength to food security, food giants Magnolia, Purefoods and Monterey have developed poultry and livestock farms with corresponding meat shops in selective towns and cities in Isabela.
Savemore Supermarkets and Robinsons Place have opened in key towns and cities of the province.
Soft-drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi, with fast-food chains like McDonalds, Jollibee, Chowking, Mang Inasal, Greenwich, Red Ribbon, Goldilocks and Dunkin’ Donuts, cater to many strategically located towns in the province.
But despite the influx of multinational food companies in the province, Isabela’s cuisine, like the popular pancit Cabagan, the chunky glutinous bibingka of Naguilian, the classy coconut jam of Cabatuan, the patupat and muscovado sugar of Santiago City are popular attractions to enthusiasts who crave for organic-food products.
With its enormous production of mung beans and byproducts, the multiawarded San Mateo town is dubbed as the “Munggo Capital of the Philippines.” The town also pioneered the “Walang Plastikan!” to minimize, if not totally, eradicate the widespread use of plastic bags initiated by the Isabela Green Ladies Organization.
The municipality of Aurora is another vegetable basket of the province and home to CornWorld seed-processing plant.
What used to be known as the “Banana Grove” of the province, San Guillermo town is now popular for its sweet large-size pineapples, which the municipality of Echague emulated.
Known for large-scale cattle and carabao production, San Pablo and San Agustin towns play as the livestock and dairy capitals of the province.
“It is precisely because of these reasons that we celebrated during the last week of January our Bambanti Festival 2015 with ‘Golden Isabela’ highlights,” Isabela Gov. Faustino “Bojie” Dy III said.
Bambanti Festival was born during the term of the late Gov. Benjamin Dy, older brother of the incumbent governor. Because of its predominantly agricultural landscape, Bambanti, an Ilocano term for “scarecrow,” was the adopted name for the yearly thanksgiving festival, symbolizing food security.
“This year’s festival theme ‘Golden Isabela’ showcases the province’s gains as an agricultural investment and tourism destination not only in the Philippines but in Southeast Asia, as well,” Isabela Vice Gov. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano said.
Major highlights of the festival were individual display booths showcasing the respective Bambanti designs, home-made products and ecotourism potentials of the province’s 34 towns and three cities.
Designed after the festival theme, the most attractive centerpiece of each booth are the “bambanti” images, like the giant carabao scarecrow of San Agustin town. San Mateo depicted it with giant munggo-farming, while Palanan expressed it with a cave covered with enormous Sabutan hats.
“Because of the ever-changing images, every year, we have different concepts of the festival because of the massive developments in each town, which need to be showcased for marketing, and the traditional street-dance showdowns exhibited our people’s best creative skills and live performances as a result of cooperative efforts,” Dy said.
Image credits: Leonardp Perante II(