Masbate is the country’s cowboyland and “Rodeo Capital”. It is by virtue of its vast cattle ranches and the telltale cowboys who tame the herd. On April 17-22, it will sizzle once more with Texan-themed adventure as it holds the annual Rodeo Masbateño Festival. Also see cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country converge in the provincial capital of Masbate City. They will show off skills like lassooing, bull riding, whipping and carambola, among others.
A much-awaited event is the Cattle Drive on April 19. Cows are let loose in the streets of the City and herded back to the flock by the cowboys. This will be followed by the Cattle Horse Riding Team Penning Competition. Ranch and school-based teams will outdo one another with their skills. Meanwhile, spicing up the festival are a trade fair, livestock display and auction, street barn dance, and photo competition. Furthermore, establishments will be jazzed up as Western salons blaring cowboy music as horsemen gallop around.
The Masbate Provincial Government, Masbate City Government, Department of Tourism Region 5 and Filminera Resources Corp all support the event. Spectators can feel the fever by dressing up in checkered 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, said that the Rodeo is their unique way of luring visitors to showcase its country ranch lifestyle and its best-kept natural wonders. She said that beyond its “Wild Wild West” image, the province is an exciting travel frontier, especially for beach bums and nature lovers who want to explore the well-kept travel secrets. Guests can explore Masbate’s glistening shores and crystal-clear water off the beaten path.
Just a few minutes fro the City is Buntod Sandbar, a 251-hectare reef marine sanctuary which boasts of 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 is Palani Beach, a wide cove in a sleepy shore reminiscent of Boracay’s raw allure. With only a handful of resorts in a vast expanse, you can beach ball games, go bamboo 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 halfway house for victims of substance abuse preparing reintegration into society. Literally meaning “farms of hope”, this is a visually refreshing pit-stop with the undulating mountain ranges which conjure of pastoral Alpine images. Cool off with flavored cow’s milk or take home organic farm produce and native souvenirs to help fund the institution.
If you can’t enough of the sea and sand can hie off to nearby Ticao Island whose iconic spot is the postcard-pretty Catandayagan Falls, which emanates from a cliff and drops directly into the sea.
Burubangcaso Islet boasts of talcum fine sand, crystalline water and a huge monolithic rock. In fact, it is among the chain of islands you can almost call your own. And that is because of the absence of a maddening crowd.
A hidden placid cove teeming with aquatic life is in Ticao’s northern portion: the Halea Nature Park. Seems like the name of the park is from a mythical character of Bicol folklore. Limestone rocks and patches of sleepy shores beautifully frames the marine sanctuary.
On the other side of the island is the Manta Bowl of Ticao Pass. It is the habitat of the manta rays and where butandings (whale sharks) occasionally stray from their feeding grounds. They mostly feed 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 has a rather powdery beach and a crystalline natural pool.