2023 Mammangi Festival and 11th Cityhood Anniversary
The last days of this year’s summer season had seen super typhoon Betty (international name, Mawar) making its way through the provinces of northern Philippines. Early on, the country’s designated agency, PAGASA, issued typhoon warning signals all over Northern Luzon, prompting the local governments to suspend tourism activities in their localities.
The weather disturbances had the City of Ilagan, the capital of Isabela, postpone the celebration of their annual Mammangi Festival, which was originally set for the last week of May. The city LGU only pushed through with the celebration in August, the festivities coinciding with the anniversary of the former municipality’s conversion into a component city.
The City and its Corn Festival
The then Municipality of Ilagan only gained its cityhood after two attempts in the previous years, when the majority of Ilagueños finally voted “yes” in a plebiscite held on August 11, 2012. The previous bids were shelved due to the townsfolk rejecting the cityhood in 1999 and when the renewed bill did not go through in 2006 due to the former town mayor’s assassination.
The City of Ilagan is the country’s biggest component city, with a land area of 1,166 square kilometers spread throughout its 91 barangays. As soon as we entered the city’s welcoming arc, icons of corn became a staple sight. From tiny street embellishments to the city’s giant landmarks and spacious parks, these ubiquitous corn symbols signify Ilagan’s unique agricultural stature—the country’s corn capital.
Maize production was noted as a major farming activity among the Ibanags, the city’s earliest ethnic inhabitants, long before the conquistador Juan de Salcedo explored the Cagayan Valley region in 1856. Being engaged for centuries up to the present, Ilagan is now acknowledged as a corn basket; the country’s Agriculture department conferred the title “Corn Capital of the Philippines” to the city, apparently in keeping the ancestral industry amidst its progress to modernity.
To honor the corn farmers who serve as the foundation of Ilagan’s economy and reputation, the City of Ilagan institutionalized Mammangi Festival in 2011 as the town’s official festival. “Mammangi” is an Ibanag word meaning “corn farmers,” but it may also refer to the activities involved in corn production, such as the preparation of land, cultivation, planting, nurturing, harvesting, drying, and selling of corn, which are all depicted in the festival’s vibrant street dances.
Along with other attractions in the city, with this capitalization on a major agricultural product through a festival that attracted city visitors, Ilagan was also awarded the best tourism oriented LGU by the Department of Tourism.
Ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings
Several national- and city-funded projects are inaugurated on Ilagan’s 11th cityhood anniversary.
Ilagan City Mayor Josemarie L. Diaz and the members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod led the blessing and inauguration of JLD Village, a housing project located in Brgy. Alibagu for the employees of the City of Ilagan. JLD Village has about 100 entirely built houses during the formal turnover. The city government targets to provide for 2,500 city hall employees in the subsequent phases of the housing project.
Earlier that day, Mayor Diaz, with Sen. Mark Villar as the guest speaker, formally launched the I-Corn Complex, a corn processing and innovation center in Brgy. Marana 1st. Aside from further developing the city’s corn production, the 200 million peso project, co-funded by the city government and the Department of Agriculture, was being built to make Ilagan the center of agricultural trading in Cagayan Valley.
“The first of its kind in the country,” according to Villar, the facility will harness state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure to increase local maize growers’ income and productivity. The corn processing complex is also planned to serve as a research hub to supply farmers with technological know-how. The I-Corn Complex will be “a beacon of progress,” said the mayor in his keynote speech.
Binibining Ilagan 2023
The Grand Coronation Night of Binibining Ilagan 2023, held at the City of Ilagan Sports Complex, was an evening of dazzling beauty and glamor. The event was hosted side by side by actor and model Kaloy Tingcungco and Miss Universe Philippines 2021 Beatrice Luigi Gomez.
Like Gomez, some of the judges were also among the big names in the pageant industry, such as Miss Universe 1984 third runner-up Desiree Verdadero-Abesamis, the recently crowned Miss Charm Philippines Krishnah Gravidez, and world-class couturier Albert Andrada, whose creations were paraded by Binibining Ilagan candidates.
Five candidates emerged winners after flaunting their charm and grace and showcasing their intelligence during the Q&A portion. Kris Villar from Brgy. Naguilian Sur and Frances Leaño from San Vincente were named the first and second runner-up.
Meanwhile, Justine Morillo from San Andres bagged the title Bb. Ilagan Agrikultura 2023, while Kay Bautista of Imelda Bliss Village was awarded the Bb. Ilagan Sining, Kultura at Turismo. Kristine Guzman of Marana 1st took home the crown and will represent the city in the next Binibining Isabela.
Famed actor James Reid serenaded the lovely candidates, and his performance added such intensity to the already thunderous applauses of the audience clamoring for their barrios’ candidate.
Outstanding Barangays and Ilagueños
The next evening, Ilagueños from different barangays filled the bleachers of the Ilagan Community Center for the Barangay Night and Sikan na Ilagan events.
Sikan na Ilagan, the first part of the program, honored the business entities that delivered significant contributions to the city’s economic development and the individual Ilagueños who excelled in their chosen fields. The lengthy list of awardees of the Most Outstanding Ilagueños includes entrepreneurs, medical practitioners, law enforcers, lawyers, agriculturists, athletes, young professionals, public servants, artists, and educators.
The Barangay Night was enlivened by the entertaining dance numbers from the constituents of different barangays, which were also participated in by their kapitan and kagawads, albeit dancing to the groove with reluctance. The event also recognized the most well-administered barangays and appreciated the seating of barangay officials.
During the night, Ilagan’s people were in for a treat. Actress and singer Geneva Cruz serenaded the crowd with her medley of OPM classics, to which many Ilagueños seemed to relate. At the tail-end of the event, the convention center was filled with roars of laughter when the comedic duo of MC and Lassy took center stage and delivered their slapstick skits.
The twin celebration’s opening salvo—held days before we arrived in the city—was led by Mayor Diaz through the opening of agri-ecotourism booths. Each brightly decorated booth, represented by Ilagan’s barangay clusters (groupings of the city’s 91 barangays) and other government sectors, highlights the city’s diverse products. They also serve as a “platform for local entrepreneurs to showcase their products, promote local trade, and invigorate the city’s economy,” says a journalist from the region.
We visited the village the morning before the festival’s grand parade. It was where we obtained our pasalubong. The village was a small vacant property now occupied by air-conditioned product booths made from heavy building materials such as concrete. Curious because it seemed like a usual transient bazaar to me, I asked Sydney Pontejos, our city tour guide, whether the agri-ecotourism village was permanent or not, and she replied in the vernacular, “I’m not yet sure, but it would be great if it is.”
The Grand Parade
Mammangi Festival 2023 culminated in a parade of colors and a dance showdown between the clustered barangays. The parade started from the city’s Rizal Park, where the competing dance contingents assembled—clad in colorful, corn-inspired costumes—and marched to the sports complex where a throng of cheering spectators awaited.
Each minute of the dance showdown electrified the grandstand. Drums were beating, and revelers were screaming as the contingents boogied their bodies on the grounds and on the stage. The dancers’ performances were characterized by giant corn props and themes relating to the city’s stories of hope and resilience.
Before the announcement of winners, where the overall champion received a million worth of project funds, a musical concert jazzed up the festival’s final night, just like the previous star-studded evenings of the week-long fest, acclaimed vocalists including Celeste Legaspi, Dulce, Gino Padilla, and Gigi de Lana graced the concert stage.
Ultimately, the Northeastern 1 cluster, which also bagged many minor awards, was declared the overall winner. The night ended with a four-minute-long fireworks display that rocked the city’s night skies. I was left in awe. It was one of the grandest pyrotechnics I have ever seen. Mammangi Festival 2023, literally and figuratively, ended with a bang!
We would like to thank Sydney Pontejos from the city’s Public Information Office, who tirelessly assisted our group of visiting media, ensuring all our needs were met during the entire coverage, all under the heat of Ilagan City’s temperature. This writer also thanks Out of Town Blog for the opportunity to cover such a wondrous festival.