When one thinks of Philippine Festivals, what immediately comes to mind are the pulsating energy of Sinulog in Cebu, the primal rhythm of Dinagyang in Iloilo, the hypnotic beat of drums of Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, the vibrant masks of Masskara in Bacolod, the blossoming beauty of Panagbenga in Baguio, the enchanting allure of Zamboanga's Hermoso, and the bountiful celebration of Kadayawan in Davao, among others. A closer exploration of the islands, however, reveals other joyful celebrations that occur in smaller cities and towns across the archipelago.
The Mammangi Festival in Ilagan, Isabela, is one such communal celebration that stands apart from the bigger and more extravagant festivals. But like traditional Philippine festivals, it embodies the same exuberant spirit. It's a spectacle that demonstrates love and respect for the unsung heroes of this city—the farmers and their golden crop: corn. The festival is dedicated to celebrating the resilience of the city of Ilagan, which has overcome numerous challenges and is now striving to become a model city for the future.
The Mammangi Festival takes its name from the word "mangui," which means "corn" in the Ibanag language. Originally conceived as a celebration of thanksgiving, it coincides with the feast of Ilagan's patron Saint Ferdinand of Castille, celebrated on May 30th.
However, this year, the festival faced a significant setback when Typhoon Betty struck the northern part of Luzon, including Isabela, during its scheduled dates. The devastating impact of the typhoon almost led to the complete cancellation of the festival.
Fortunately, under the leadership of Mayor Josemarie L. Diaz, the city government managed to reschedule the Mammangi Festival just in time before the year's end. It was moved to coincide with the week of the 11th anniversary of Ilagan's cityhood, which falls on August 11.
Eight groups representing clusters of barangays participated in the Street Dance and Modern Dance Showdown. Poblacion 2 emerged as the winners in both categories, followed by San Antonio 2 and Poblacion 1, securing the 1st and 2nd Runner-up positions in both categories.
The night before, a large crowd gathered at the sports complex to witness the crowning of the city's new beauty queen. Kristine Joy D. Guzman of Barangay Marana I claimed the title Binibining Ilagan 2023. The pageant, hosted by Miss Universe Philippines 2021 Beatrice Luigi Gomez and GMA's Carlo Tingcungco, featured a surprise musical performance by actor James Reid, much to the delight of the enthusiastic audience.
The Mammangi Festival, which marked the first in-person celebration since the pandemic, also served as a platform to highlight the city's goals of attaining "Livable City" status by 2030. Why wait until 2030? Mayor Diaz explained that reaching the “Livable City” level of achievement requires time and effort, as specific criteria need to be fulfilled. Drawing inspiration from top livable cities like Brisbane, Geneva, Auckland, Osaka, among others, the goal is to achieve significant improvements in "over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors" across five key categories: culture, infrastructure, stability, environment, education, and healthcare.
To fulfill the specified criteria, the city has enlisted the expertise of Felino Palafox, a highly regarded Filipino architect and urban planner. Palafox will serve as a consultant to assess and establish the most effective approach for creating Ilagan's land use plan. This plan is crucial as it aims to assess and identify the development possibilities of the city, taking into account the correct use of its abundant natural resources and existing infrastructure.
Other projects include the construction of pedestrian and bike lanes, wise zoning practices, the establishment of more health and educational facilities, and the reduction of the housing backlog through the construction of affordable housing for local residents.
As the grand concert on Mammangi's final night reaches its climax, the evening sky is illuminated by a spectacular fireworks display. The enthusiastic applause and cheers of the crowd reverberated throughout the Ilagan Sports Complex. In that very moment, the city was filled with hope, and the promise of a brighter future shone brightly. Ilagan has indeed come a long way, advancing from the third-poorest city to becoming the 50th wealthiest city among 149 cities in the Philippines, according to a 2022 COA report.
This remarkable transformation is a true testament to the determination and resilience of the Ilagueños. The Mammangi Festival was the perfect celebration to honor the hardworking farmers who have cultivated the fertile lands and abundant corn fields of the city, as well as the continued collaborative efforts of its residents. Their efforts have not only contributed to the city's economic growth but have also played a significant role in inching Ilagan closer to the lofty but achievable goal of becoming a Livable City by 2030.
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