The Municipality of Cabatuan, Isabela, known as the Land of the Golden Grain, is the home of the unique Kankanen Festival. The annual occasion is a showcase of various native cakes and pastries made from sweet rice (‘malagkit’ or ‘dikit’ in the local vernacular). The festival aims to increase the cultural heritage of Cabatuan especially in the culinary preparation of native delicacies.

The pioneering Ilocanos from Laoag and Bacarra in Ilocos Norte province migrated in 1912 bringing with them their families and livestock. The settlers stayed in the locality in Southern Isabela near the banks of the mighty Magat River where they also brought their culture and traditions, way of life, arts, clothing, and culinary practices. The locality prospered to be known as Cabatuan, one of the seats of Ilocano Heritage in Cagayan Valley. The ingenious Ilocanos are blessed with the talent of cooking more so on the art of making cakes and pastries using rice flour from ‘dikit’. The Kankanen, general Ilocano term for anything made from glutinous rice and flour, is usually a prime dish or food served on special occasions such as after-birth rites, birthdays, baptisms, wake and funeral rites, patronal and town fiestas, thanksgivings, arrival of prominent guests and balikbayans. It is also the main dish offered during an ‘Atang’ or offering to gods or beloved departed family members, religious icons and symbols, as a token of honor, offering for peace, thanksgiving and the like. The preparation and serving of Kankanen is a symbol of the rich Ilocano culture and tradition.


The idea of having a festival original to Cabatuan was first conceptualized by then Isabela Cultural and Historical Council Officers Dr. Constante B. Andres and now Department of Tourism Regional Director Dr. Troy Alexander G. Miano, DPA with the proposal of calling it Moriecos Festival. However, it was Mayor Alma A. Dayrit and the Rural Improvement Club (RIC) officers and members led by Mrs. Visitacion F. Caridad (Festival Chair, 2003 & 2004), Mrs. Marcelina C. Laurado (RIC Federation President), Mrs. Ernesta S. Borromeo and the club presidents of the 22 barangays and 2 sitios, who initiated the first ever contest and named it Kankanen Festival. Mayor Dayrit and the RIC visions to promote tourism and to re-energize the fading Ilocano culinary tradition of Kankanen making and introduce it to the young Cabatuanense thru the institutionalization of the festival.

On the 54th Founding Anniversary Celebration of Cabatuan in November 2003, the Kankanen Festival was launched by Mayor Alma A. Dayrit with the fiesta directorship of then Isabela Electric Company (ISELCO-I) Director Franklin P. Macugay. There were 19 entries on the pilot food exhibit on the 4th of November 2003 at the Municipal Grounds. Heading the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to the Kankanen Festival Booth was Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Blesida G. Diwa. With the objective of continuity, Mayor Atanasio T. Dayrot Jr. spearheaded the 2nd Kankanen Festival on the 5th of November 2004 during the 55th Founding Anniversary rites with Sangguniang Bayan Member Cid A. Dayrit as director-general. This time, the RIC focused on the Moriecos, the kankanen original to Cabatuan.

Kankanen Festival is now a part of the Foundation Day rites of Cabatuan and has become the prestige and is a continuing agri-ecotourism activity of the municipality.

[1] The original version is researched and published by Dr. Troy Alexander G. Miano, DPA.