My good friend Zoom and I were talking about Ozamis and Oroquieta. His blog shows much more of the province – – spots that provide reason to explore these rarely visited destinations. His photos should convince travelers to skip the more popular sites and be rewarded with the experience of discovery. Wonderful !
I first went to Masbate in 1978. I remember Masbate to be a very poor province. I always tell my friends that I then checked in at Crown Hotel near the pier and, when it was time for shower, the hotel staff would fetch me a huge pail of water – – brought to my second floor room from a pulley at the end of the hall.
Fast forward to 2013. Friends piqued my interest to watch the Masbate Rodeo and I thought it was an excellent subject for photography.
In between the rodeo events, my friends and I would go to “tourist destinations” but I did not have enough material then to write about Masbate. This year, I attended Rodeo 2014 and booked myself a much longer stay. In the process, I was able to explore more of Masbate.
“Masbate lies roughly at the center of the Philippine archipelago … bounded on the north by Burias and Ticao Pass, east by San Bernardino Strait, south by the Visayan Sea, and west by the Sibuyan Sea. Relative to mainland Bicol, the province faces the southwestern coasts of Camarines Sur, Albay, and Sorsogon areas.
The general surface configuration of the province ranges from slightly undulating to rolling and from hilly to mountainous. In each island, the rugged topography is concentrated in the northeastern portion and gradually recedes to blunt hills and rolling areas in the south, southeast, and southwest.”
Above description of Masbate’s topography reminds me of it’s similarities to the hills of Batanes. In fact, I tell my friends while we were on the road that, if they haven’t been to Batanes, they could shoot some hills and pass them off as Batanes shots. Of course I could be exaggerating.
Yet, Masbate is beautiful in its own right. And depending on how deeply you explore its nooks and crannies and the islands that form part of the province, you might even say it is more beautiful. Minus the stone houses that make Batanes unique.
All promotions of Masbate that I have seen in recent years say Masbate is the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines. I can only agree that the rodeo is the one big draw. Otherwise, I would not have made visits to watch the rodeo for two consecutive years.
But I submit that Masbate is much more than rodeo. It’s natural beauty is more than enough to lure visitors. The centuries-old lighthouses are another major reason and, for some, could be sufficient enough reason to go. And I am not even talking about the wonderful people of this province that made my visits both comfortable and memorable.
I shall show Masbate in photos on this blog. On some, I will share anecdotes. But for most, I the photos should speak for themselves. As it is sad, a picture paints a thousand words.
Buntod is a marine sanctuary that is most likely the most popular destination. It is accessed from right at the city, at the wharf of Rendezvous Hotel. On our frist trip to Buntod, we went to still another destination, a cove about 30 minutes away.
The only waterfalls I have seen that empties its waters straight into the sea. Accessible by boat, the falls is actually part of the nearby Ticao Island, in the town of San Jacinto.
Palani is a rather new development. When I visied in 2013, resorts were just being set up. Excellent swimming on crystal clear waters on powdery sand. In the town of Balud.
Took a 1 1/2 hour ride on a van from the Masbate Transport Terminal. Van fare was P80. From Aroroy, took a boat to Punta Bugui, at P50 per person. This centuries-old lighthouse is a short walk up the hill.
P150 fare on a van to Calumpang in the town of Balud. Approximately 2 hours, with the last 45 minutes on bumpy, rather dusty road. Good thing the van is air-conditioned. Transfered to a boat to the island of Jintotolo, landing on the Barabgay Cantil shores. A short hike up, or an easy “habal-habal” (back-ride on a motorbike) to this other centuries-old lighthouse.
I rate this restaurant as another tourist destination. Our group of 25 persons ordered food more than enough for us. Malasuge fish cooked three ways – – – – grilled, broth, and sashimi-style. Plus scallops and seafood kare-kare. And generous servings of rice, plus softdrinks. In the end, we split the bill and each one of us had to fork out only P200 each as our share.
Lasala Beach was used as “command post” when Secretary Robredo’s plane crashed and President Noy Aquino took cahrge of the failed rescue operations. A small picnic hut has been called “Little Malacanang” by the locals since it is from this small hut where the President met with his cabinet who were with him.
I had the privilege of a preview of a tourism package that is to be a major draw of Masbate, RANCH LIFE. We were guests in the ranch of the president od Rodeo Masbateno, Inc, an amiable gentleman everyone calls Judge Sese.
FAZENDA DE ESPERANCA
Fazenda is a rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol dependents in the town of Milagros, run by the religious.. The community of Fazenda Masbate has established different working sectors: Dairy, Rice, Bakery, Vegetable Garden, T-Shirt Printing etc. Through this, the community is earning the money for the daily operations.
Locals call the zigzag road SIGSAG. It is a beautiful winding road with a view of the hills and plains.
Located 1.5 kilometers inland in the town of Mandaon, near Masbate City. It is said that the caves were used as burial grounds in the old days. Within the area, a hike will lead visitors to an underground waterfalls. We were so tired we skipped the waterfalls and just saw another falls from up the hill. Our knees were trembling after traversing two hills we couldn’t muster the strength to go down the falls.
THE STREETS OF MASBATE
Stroll around and discover some old houses, see the Masbate Church, and soak in the feel of a provincial city unknown to most travelers
WHERE TO STAY IN MASBATE CITY
I have stayed at both Greenview Hotel and MG Hotel. Both are comfortable, but nothing de luxe. I have also visited popular hotels Rendezvous, 7 AR, and GV.
Another accommodations worth mentioning is Balai Valencia, also in downtown Masbate. I don’t have photos but suffice it to say that some of our friends who attended the 2014 Rodeo stayed in this budget hotel, and did not complain. Rates are very inexpensive:
Single 650 1room
Double 800 2rooms
Triple 950 2rooms
Single 450 1room
Double 550 1room
Triple 650 1room
Extra person per rm 150
HOW TO GO TO MASBATE
1. By Land: RORO bus at Araneta Center
The roro bus (roro bus of Montenegro and Isarog bus line) in Araneta terminal (the old Rustan’s) leaves for Masbate between 1 pm to 6 pm. The bus fare is P1,200.00. Travel time is approximately 11 hours.
2. By Air: PAL/PAL Express direct flight to Masbate. My return ticket cost me P7,000.00. Fares vary depending on the season, and depending on how early or late you book your flight.
3. By Air, Land and Ferry: Any flight to Legazpi. Land travel to Pilar, Sorsogon. Ferry at Pilar, Sorsogon.
You can supplement whatever I have shared about Masbate by visiting the Masbate City’s website: http://www.masbatecity.gov.ph/
You may also want to visit the facebook community page I created and called MAS-BEYT, a play on the province’s name:
SEE YOU IN MASBATE !
I have always liked churches as photography subjects. I have shot many centuries old churches in the towns and cities all over the country, and then it occurred to me that Manila itself, being an old city, is home to some of the oldest and historic churches in the Philippines. Thus last Maundy Thursday, I did what others call Visita Iglesia. I did not do the Stations of the Cross as most everyone did. I thought that by presenting these churches to those who haven’t been there, they may want to visit, and say a little prayer.
SAN SEBASTIAN CHURCH
The Basilica Minore de San Sebastian is better known as San Sebastian Church. It is a unique showcase of Gothic architecture, and the only all-steel church in Asia, and is listed as a National Historical Landmark.
On the day of my visit, the faithful were already in droves, some doing the Station of the Cross at the church yard.
Pobably the most famous church in the Philippines, it is home to the Black Nazarene. Located on perhaps the busiest district, the faithful come to Quiapo Church to seek divine intervention for life’s problems. Some navigating the aisle from the entrance to the altar on bended knees.
Locals also go to Quiapo to buy talisman or herbal medicine ,or to hear about their future from the many fortune tellers outside the church compound.
SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH
San Agustin is most famous for weddings because of its location – – – within the old walled city of Intramuros. Around the church compound are a selection of turn-of-the-century inspired restaurants, accented by the click-clack of horse drawn carriages that roam the cobblestone roads. Those keen on history also make the San Agustin Church museum a must-visit.
The Manila Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. A stone’s throw away from San Agustin Church, visitors marvel not only at the church but also at the “guardia civil” dressed traffic cops that dot the old city, as well as the Palacio del Governador around the corner. And the horse-drawn carriages that can take them around while sight-seeing.
STA ANA CHURCH
The church is officially called Our Lady of the Abandoned of Sta.Ana (Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados de Sta.Ana)
The Church of Santa Ana stands on the site of the first Franciscan mission established outside Manila in 1578. The church was built under the supervision of Fr. Vicente Ingles, OFM. The cornerstone of the present church was laid on September 12, 1720 by Francisco dela Cuesta, then Archbishop of Manila and Acting Governor General of the Philippines.
I quote wikipedia to describe this church: “in the early 1700s, Father Vicente went to Valencia, Spain. The friar had been very enamored of a famous image of Our Lady that had become a big spiritual attraction in Valencia. The image is now known as “Our Lady of the Abandoned” (in Spanish, Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados).While Father Vicente was in Valencia, in the year 1713 he decided to have a copy made of this image—venerated in Valencia with so much devotion—for Santa Ana Parish, which was in the process of being constructed near Manila. After reverently touching the copy to the original image, the friar brought the new replica image with him to the Philippines in 1717. The image has been venerated in Santa Ana for almost 300 years. In time, the parish became known as Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish, as it is today. But St. Ann, the original patron of the parish, has not been forgotten. Today, a statue of St. Ann with the child Mary at her side still stands in a niche directly above the exquisite image of Our Lady of the Abandoned that Father Vicente brought from Valencia.”
I deliberately included the Binondo Church because I figure that a Catholic Church in the heart of Chinatown is worth a story. The Chinese all over the world are predominantly Buddhists and therefore a Catholic Church in its center is testament to the faithful having established this place of worship
The church is on Ongpin Street in Binondo, and on a park outside the church stands a statue in honor of Don Roman Ongpin, a Chinese businessman who led financial support and contributed to the success of the Filipino uprising against Spain in 1896.
My memories of Malate Church are related to this district. I have always seen this church as my friends and I would go to the bars and restaurants in this bohemian community. I also worked for many years at the Ramon Magsaysay Center close by, and would pass by this place. My friends at Hobbit House, all midgets who work as waiters, also had a mass wedding at Malate.
The park in front is always busy. On the day of my visit, there were food stalls and my wife and I feated on halo-halo and turon. Prominent in the middle of the park is a statue honoring a Filipino hero, Raha Sulayman.
TONDO CHURCH (STO. NINO)
The church started as The Convent in Tondo, one of the first structures built by the Spaniards in Luzon, was accepted by the Provincial Chapter on May 13, 1572. The church was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1863 and was rebuilt for the third time by Fr. Manuel Diez Gonzalez. The restoration was completed by Fr. Casimiro Herrero minister of Tondo from 1874 to 1880 (source: Wikipedia)
The Sto Nino Church in Tondo is busiest during the feast of the infant Jesus. As I sat inside the church on my visit, I can’t help but notice a little boy looking at me. I figured he looked like the Sto Nino and I thought I should take a photo of that moment.
CHURCH OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL
This church is in San Marcelino St, right beside Adamson University. In the old days this was the Paco Church. I decided to visit this church because this is where I used to go to when I was taking up Mechanical Engineering at Adamson University. It was a homecoming of sorts.
All these churches are grand. All these churches are old. And all of them are in the City of Manila. I was missing a lot. The VISITA IGLESIA was a spiritual journey. And it allowed me to finally see these churches, most of which I normally just passed by. Most of all, the journey allowed me to take photographs and invite the faithful to come visit these churches. And offer a little prayer.
I went to Masbate to attend the National Rodeo Finals for the second time, this time making sure I witness the whole thing – – – from the Grand Parade to the Awards Night.
THE GRAND PARADE: April 8
The Grand Parade officially ushers the opening of the competition, starting with the participants from all over the Philippines and the rodeo officials. The parade ended at the Rodeo Arena where the opening ceremonies were held as soon as all the participants, officials, and guests were in the arena.
Next day, April 9, was the Cattle Drive. Some 140 heads of cattle were released from the city center , tru the streets of Masbate, to the Rodeo Arena. Cowboys on their horses herded the cattle, with some going astray. The events organizers have teams of cowboys assigned to handle cattle that will stray from the herd.
The events consisted of Penning (herding assigned cattle to the pen within 5 minutes), carambola (2 person or 4 person carambola) where cowboys put down a cow and tie them up, Rustling from Horseback, rustling on foot, lassoing, and bullriding.
THE PARTICIPATING TEAMS
Teams from various schools offering animal husbandry or veterinary medicine from all over the country participated. From as far north as Benguet, to the Visayas and Mindanao. They were joined by professional players, real life cowboys working in ranches.
TAKING CARE OF ANIMALS AND MEN
THE AWARDS NIGHT
Awarding of individual and team prizes happened on a Saturday night, April 12, 2014.
This season roved to be an upset. The perrennial Rodeo King, Kenneth was injured early on, and was prevented by doctors from further competitions. The Rodeo King and Queen, student division, went to Benguet State University and to the Central Mindanao University players, respectively. Perrennial team champion Xavier University from Cagayan de Oro was elevated to the Hall of Fame, and this years champion was my favorite Benguet State University.
The awarding was preceded by a beautiful ceremony with candles held by everyone lit one by one, and the ritual seemed magical. When all the candles were lit, the bonfire was lit ablaze. Everyone feasted on catered dinner and a roast calf at the center of the arena. There were fireworks at the start, and beer and dancing at the end.
Next year’s rodeo is scheduled April 14-18, 2015. I will again be there.
Buntod Reef is easily the top destination in all of Masbate. And why not? It is so beautiful and is so accessible. The reef is perfect for swimming and snorkeling, or to just hear the sound of the waves if one doesn’t want to be under the sun. It is reached via a short boat ride from Rendezvous Hotel right in the city.
The Reef is a marine sanctuary, run by volunteers in coordination with the Department of the Environment & Natural Resources. It used to be that local fishermen engage in dynamite fishing and other destructive methods until the DENR deputized some of them to be the protectors of the reef. Thus they had to stop the destructive methods, and also knew who to watch out for – – their colleagues in the destructive fishing trade.
The strategy proved successful. Local fishermen now have bountiful harvests from the sea. And us visitors get to appreciate a well-preserved marine sanctuary.
Bar none, the best restaurant in Masbate. Nothing fanct, but the best food, and best value – – meaning iNEXPENSIVE. I went to this restaurant last year and came back with a group of 30 friends this year.Then it was just called Castle Kaunan, with SUTUKIL taking second billing.
Going ahead of the story, the verdict was that they were all happy I introduced them to this restaurant.And why not? The place is no-fuzz, nothing fancy. Just good food. The menu was varied.
Our order consisted of the delicious fish called “malasugue” done three ways. Sutukil means SUgba, TUla, and KILaw. Sugba is grilled malasugue, TUla is malasugue in broth, and KIlaw means making a part of the malasugue fish chopped raw and only done in vinegar and some spices. On top of the 3-way malasugue, we also ordered scallops in butter, and seafood kare-kare. We had extra orders of rice, and several 1.5 liters of soda.
There were a lot of food on the table that I finished while there were a lot of food left. I figure we could have had 25% more friends with us and the food would still be sufficient. Thus, with overflowing good food that some of us tried hard to finish (what a waste if some of the food is left unfinished), the share of each one of us was only P200.00. I couldn’t believe it that a feast like that will cost us only P200 each.
I am sure my friends will also recommend this restaurant to friends who might be in this part of the world.
SUTUKIL is in Barangay Kinamaligan. All tricycle drivers know how to get there. Having no transport of our own, we all waited for our turns riding tricycles back to our hotels.
On a recent trip to Masbate I made a side trip to nearby Ticao Island. I have not heard of Ticao from any of my traveler friends and there lies the allure of discovery. Not many people have gone to Masbate, and definitely even less would have even heard of, much less set foot on Ticao. A short one-hour boat ride took me to this island.Fare: P85
The boat I took sits 80 passengers cramped in a small space. There were enough life vests though, and this made me feel good somehow.
Ticao Island is home to four towns. The first town a traveler hits from Masbate City is Batuan, arriving at the Lagundi Port in Barangay Burgos.
There are piers on all the 4 towns. I went to the Batuan pier at the center of Batuan, near the market, and saw fish being dried. Yes, Ticao Island folks have fishing as the main source of livelihood, aside from farming.
Next to San Fernando is the island’s mother town, the progressive municipality of San Jacinto.
The oldest church on this island was built in 1852, but the local parish had updated the church’s interiors, and repainted the exteriors as well – – to the great disappointment of this delights in shooting old churches and homes.
The last town is Monreal. The church was also renovated and updated, but the old homes got me worked up.
Monreal is also the jump off point to island-hopping. The Halea Nature Park is famous and, I am told, a must see. But my limited time in Ticao prevented me from further exploring ( I could not afford to miss the opening of the Rodeo Festival the next day)
This is the only falls I have seen that empties its waters straight into the ocean. A friend jokingly said that he is surprised the sea level does not rise with the continuous flow of the falls into the sea. Catandayagan can also be accessed from Masbate City on a 1 1/2 hour boat ride.
WHERE TO EAT
My friend and I, both back-riding on habal habal, had lunch in a carinderia recommended to us by the people at the town center. When asked for directions, we were told to look for the carinderia in front of the Monreal Town Hall
What we found was the best-value lunch I ever had. All four of us had longaniza (native sausages), half of a fried fish, and adobo. We also had two extra plates of rice and a 1.5 liter bottle of soda. And lots of purified water. Total bill came to only P320.00. I joked about this to my friends at the Rodeo, saying I will give a treat to the first 100 persons who sign up and would want a lunch treat from me in Monreal.
WHERE TO STAY
There are inexpensive resorts and even cheaper homestays if you ask around. But having saved so much on food, I decided to stay on the best accommodations on the island. TICAO ISLAND RESORT is in Barangay Tacdugan on our way back from Monreal to San Jacinto. It is reached via a motorbike on a stretch of unpaved road that I reckon is about 4 kilometers long. The “ordeal” from that back-breaking ride is rewarded by this A-1 resort accommodation on cabanas facing the ocean.
The air-conditioned cabanas rent out at P2,600 per pax, at 2 pax per cabana, inclusive of dinner and breakfast. Budget fan rooms are at P1,500 per pax, also inclusive of meals.
Strangely enough, the resort does not cater to locals, nor to people from Masbate mainland. It is actually fenced off and access is by boat as nearly 100% of its guests, also nearly 100% foreign nationals, arrive via boats from Donsol in Sorsogon, actually another, albeit nearby, province. The resort is packaged as accommodations for divers. Ask them about manta bowl and they will say Ticao Island.
Book Ticao Island Resort thru their website: Ticao Island Resort | Donsol Dive Resort | Ticao Island Dive Resort | Dive Donsol NOW!