Masbate is acknowledged as the country’s cowboyland and “Rodeo Capital” by virtue of its vast cattle ranches and the telltale cowboys who tame the herd. This week, it’s sizzling once again with Texan-themed adventure with the annual Rodeo Masbateño Festival as cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country converge in the provincial capital to show off their skills such as lassoing, bull riding, whipping and carambola, among others.
The much-awaited event was the Cattle Drive on April 19 with scores of cows let loose in the streets of the city, and herded back by the cowboys. Cattle Horse Riding Team Penning Competition where ranch and school-based teams outdo one another with the skills, which have made them the stuff of legend followed.
A trade fair, livestock display and auction, street barn dance, and photo competition of Masbate’s sights and sounds spice up the festival.
Meanwhile, establishments have been jazzed up as Western salons blaring cowboy music with horsemen galloping around.
Organized by the Rodeo Masbateño Inc., the event is supported by the Masbate Provincial Government, Masbate City Government, Department of Tourism Region 5 and Filminera Resources Corporation.
Spectators feel the fever by dressing up in plaid long sleeves, leather vests, jeans, boots and Western-style wide brimmed hats.
Visitors can tour the sprawling cattle ranches where they can be cowboys even for a few fleeting moments by learning to ride a horse, lasso a cow, and other skills of the trade.
According to Masbate Vice Governor Jo Kristine Revil, tourism’s prime mover in the province is the Masbateños’ unique way of luring visitors to the province’s country ranch lifestyle as well as their best-kept natural wonders. She said beyond Masbate’s “Wild Wild West” image, the province is an exciting travel frontier, especially for beach bums and nature lovers.
Visitors can explore Masbate’s glistening shores and crystal-clear waters.
Just a few minutes from the city is Buntod Sandbar, a 251- hectare marine reef sanctuary, which boasts a 200-meter stretch of white sand and mangrove forest. It is an awardee of the Para El Mar Best Marine Sanctuary by the Marine Science Network.
In Balud town, Palani Beach, a wide cove in a sleepy shore, reminds visitors of Boracay before it became too commercialized. With only a handful of resorts, visitors can play ball games, go rafting, row a dug-out canoe, or idly laze on the cabanas to gaze at the sunset.
Along the way is Fazenda de Esperanza in Milagros town, an agricultural retreat and sanctuary for victims of substance abuse preparing reintegration into society. The place means “farm of hope”. This is a visually refreshing pitstop with the undulating mountain ranges in the background like pastoral Alpine images.
Cool off with flavored cow’s milk or take home organic farm produce and native souvenirs to help fund the institution.
In a secluded point of Dimasalang town is Porta Vega, which offers an unparalleled stunning view of the dusk and moonrise in a mile-long stretch of uninhabited fine sand beach.
If you can’t get enough of the sea and sand, hie off to nearby Ticao Island whose iconic spot is the postcard pretty Catandayagan Falls, which emanates from a cliff and drops directly to the sea.
Burubangcaso Islet has talcum fine sand, crystalline water, and a huge monolithic rock, and is among the chain of islands you can almost call your own.
Tucked in Ticao’s northern portion is Halea Nature Park, a hidden placid cove teeming with marine life. Named after a mythical character of Bicol folklore, the marine sanctuary is framed beautifully by limestone rocks and patches of sleepy shores.
On the other side of the island is the Manta Bowl of Ticao Pass, habitat of the manta rays and where the butandings (whale sharks), the world’s biggest fishes, occasionally stray from their feeding grounds in Donsol, Sorsogon. Go scuba diving at the Ticao Island Resort and foray into the world of these amazing underwater creatures.
The sub province of Burias Island is Masbate’s top tourist drawer with its treasure trove of surprises—the awesome rock island of Animasola which is punctuated by a powdery beach and a crystalline natural pool.
This is Masbate—a mesmerizing blend of cowboys and beaches.