By Lally F. Perez

MASBATE, situated off the Bicol mainland, is the country’s “Rodeo Capital,” with its vast cattle ranches and cowboys who tame the herd. Every summer, cowboys (and cowgirls) from all over the country converge in the provincial capital of Masbate City to show off their skills in lassooing, cattle riding, whipping and carambola.

Like a Masbate Cowboy

The province will again hold the Rodeo Masbateño Festival (organized by the Rodeo Masbateño, Inc.,) from April 12 to 16, with establishments jazzed up as Western saloons blaring cowboy music as horsemen gallop around.

One much-awaited event is the Cattle Drive on April 13 where scores of cows are let loose in the streets of the city to chase pedestrians, akin to the popular Bull Run of the San Fermin Fest in Pamplona, Spain.

This is followed by the Cattle Horse Riding Team Penning Competition where ranch and school-based teams try to outdo one another.

Spicing up the festival are a trade fair, livestock display and auction, street barn dance, a photo competition focusing on Masbate’s sights and sounds, and the search for the Philippine Rodeo Girl. There will also be a beef cooking competition which will test the culinary mettle of chefs.

The Province will also launch its quest for Miss Masbate who will be its ambassadress of goodwill and tourism.

Visitors can tour the sprawling cattle ranches where they can get a feel of being cowboys by learning to ride a horse, lassoo a cow, and other skills of the trade.

Beyond its “Wild Wild West” image, the province is an exciting travel frontier, especially for beach lovers who want to bask in uncrowded shores, said Masbate Governor Vince B. Revil.

In between the rodeo contests, guests can make a quick swing to Buntod Sandbar which is just a 15-minute boat ride from Masbate City. There visitors will find a 251-hectare reef marine sanctuary with a 200-meter stretch of white sand and mangrove forest, where they can snorkel, paddle a banca or kayak around the sandbar.

Managed by the Masbate City government and a fisherfolk organization, it has been awarded the Para El Mar Best Marine Sanctuary by the Marine Science Network.

Further down south in Balud town is Palani Beach, a wide cove in a sleepy shore reminiscent of Boracay’s early raw allure. With only a handful of resorts in a vast expanse, guests can play beach ball games, go bamboo rafting, row a dug-out canoe, or laze on the cabanas to gaze at the sunset.

For even more sea and sand, hie off to Ticao Island which is teeming with fine sand beaches, islets and the postcard-pretty Catandayagan Falls, which emanates from a cliff and drops directly into the sea.