The Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary in Masbate. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
MASBATE CITY -- Looking for a new summer destination? Now is good time to check out Masbate province, which is only an hour and 15 minutes away from Manila by plane.
Ongoing until April 13 is the province's 21st Rodeo Festival, whose highlight is the national rodeo finals to be participated in by 45 teams competing in nine events: bull whipping, load carrying relay, cattle wrestling on foot, castle wrestling from horseback, cattle lassoing from horseback, two-person carambola, four-person carambola, carambola and bull riding.
Aside from the much-anticipated rodeo competition, there are also several side events to complete the festival experience such as a street barn dance, trade fair, agribusiness roadshow and livestock show.
The province’s grandstand area has also been transformed into a carnival rides with a beer plaza, while calesa rides are offered in the city.
But beyond the annual event, Masbate has several attractions to interest travelers, such as the Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary, which is located in the middle of the seawaters of Barangay Nursery and Barangay Tugbo and around 20 minutes away from Masbate City by boat.
Before it was established in 2001 as a sanctuary, dynamite fishing and other illegal activities proliferated in the Buntod coastal area.
Today, the area boasts of crystal clear waters, powdery white sand, and plenty of sea creatures. A bed of mangroves can be seen on one side of the sandbar, which is surrounded by bits of broken shells.
Only a large beach hut stands on this quiet sandbar, where visitors can have a quick meal. The sanctuary, overseen by the Samahang Mangingisda ng Puro-Sinalikway, also offers activities like snorkeling and scuba diving.
A large beach hut stands on the Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary in Masbate. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Butchoy Presado, the province’s tourism officer, also recommended island-hopping tours, particularly those found off Ticao island, which is touted as “an adventure and marine biodiversity zone.” Among the sights here are the Minalayo Sea Snake-Bat-Bird Sanctuary and the Catandayagan Falls.
Meanwhile, the province’s other major island, Burias, is known for white-sand beaches and caves.
In keeping with the province’s tag as the Home of Philippine Rodeo and the Cattle Capital of the country, several of Masbate’s ranches now offer ranch tours, allowing guests to visit actual working ranches and even learn some cowboy skills.
Horseback riding at a Masbate ranch. Photo: Handout
Masbate’s ranch tour packages allow tourists to experience day-to-day ranch activities with real-life cowboys and cowgirls as tour guides. Apart from enjoying breathtaking view of rolling hills, tourists also get a feel of ranch life as they get to learn first-hand about gathering livestock, driving herds, branding cattle, and, if lucky, witnessing cows give birth.
The ranch tours are open to families, groups and even companies looking for new adventures and bonding activities. For corporate team building, instead of the usual obstacle course events, teams can compete, for instance, in lassoing, casting down of a cow, carambola and load-carrying relay.
Presado also noted of a unique ranch tour in Masbate that adds an entirely different dimension to this activity.
The Fazenda da Esperanca or Bukid ng Pag-asa is a ranch-cum-rehabilitation center for those suffering from addictions. The 200-hectare ranch was established by a group of missionaries from Brazil and Germany. Patients at Fazenda Masbate are tasked to work in various areas of the ranch including dairy, rice, vegetable garden and bakery, among others.
According to Presado, Fazenda has now opened its center for visitors who wish to go on retreats.