Masbate Rodeo 2017

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My 5th consecutive rodeo since 2013.

This year, the provincial government decided to give away cattle to people who can catch them on the streets of Masbate, calling the event Huego de Toro, or Pasuwag. Locals enlisted to join and were thoroughly briefed as the game is quite dangerous – – especially for onlookers. Imagine cattle that have never left the ranch being brought to the city streets for the first time The rodeo director even described the cows as blind and wild. Photographers were asked to secure themselves on spots where the cattle can not jump to. Or else their expensive gears could be damaged. professional cowboys were also around to restrain the cattle to prevent them from hammering into the crowds watching the exciting event. Establishments closed their doors in the meantime. This is bringing the rodeo into the streets !

A makeshift pen was built at the end of the road from where the cattle were to be released. Another pen was built on the other end where the caught cattle will be brought by the teams. each team was limited to 3 cowboys. When they catch anything, they get to own the head of cattle. Either they bring these home for meat or sell to willing buyers.

The usual cattle events participated in by professional cowboys and cowboys/cowgirls forming school teams from all over the country were played at the arena.

Cowboys racing to catch their cattle for the carambola

 

Gotcha ! The team that holds a cows neck “owns” the cattle for the game.

 

Casting down 

 

When properly roped in, the cowboys (and cowgirls) maneuver to cast the cattle down.

 

Another team for casting down

 

In Bull riding, cowboys qualify if they hit 8 seconds. Most of the time they fall off in the first few seconds

 

And the cattle can’t go away !

 

Rodeo Masbateno continues to be the premier rodeo event in the country. In fact, VROoM (Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate) officiates other rodeo events outside of Masbate, by special arrangement.

The thrill is unparalleled. Plan your rodeo experience – – – April 2018. Watch this space.

(Photos taken by fellow FUNtastic Philippines Fun Group member Mark Arvin Esquivel Santiago)

Superman Cowboy at Masbate Rodeo 2017

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This is the fifth rodeo I attended in Masbate in the past 5 years. And carambola has been a favorite event.

To the uninitiated, carambola is a cattle event where 2 competing teams of cowboys chase 2 heads of cattle let loose in the rodeo arena. The team that first grabs the bull by the neck will have that cattle to wrestle with and bring down, and tie 3 of its legs  with a rope. The cattle must not be able to stand up within 10 seconds, or else the team is disqualified for that game. All teams race for time, and the winning team for the event, like for example in  the 4-man carambola, is that team that does this routine at the shortest possible time.

This particular 4-man carambola I witnessed this year will go down in history as the bravest attempt by a cowboy.

Ever heard of the idiom “take the bull by the horns” ?

Here is what an idioms book says :

take the bull by the horns:  to forcefully attack a difficult situation

Example: ” I took the bull by the horns and confronted him about his drinking.”

Etymology: based on the idea that holding a bull (male cow) by its horns is a brave and direct action.

Cowboy Ace Malate, a 19-year old Animal Science student did exactly that. I was then at the Photographers Gallery when I saw this cowboy take the bull by the horns and did not let go, even as the bull was mightily trying to throw him off. Cameras from the photographers clicked almost continuously realizing the danger that the cowboy put himself into just to help his team wrestle the horse down. My thought balloon was ” My God, I hope he is not thrown off – –  he will be badly injured if this happens. The horns can get into his tummy ”

Here is the sequence, in photos taken by the official team commissioned by RMI.

 

Taking the bull by the horns

 

Holding on, feet now off the ground

 

The bull is trying to ward off the cowboy, now horizontal

 

Superman !

 

When the group was able to finish its task, I turned around to the photographers and remarked that if anyone had a good photo of that, it could possibly be the winning photo in the Photo Competition participated in by 25 or so photographers.

I also hurriedly went up the stage and requested the barkers Long and Yen to ask the brave cowboy to present himself to the stage for a special cash prize. An instantaneous decision triggered by this awesome display of bravery.

Leo Gozum, Rodeo Director told me:

” Right after this particular game with the horns. Guenther (a German cowboy from Munich,  and  a volunteer rodeo official working as timer) reacted  and said that Filipino cowboys are like cats. They have 9 lives. No matter how they are thrown they still land standing up. If the Germans that he knows would do this – – –  for sure they will have broken bones and end up in a hospital.”

Meet the brave Superman Cowboy, Ace Malate.  He is from the team called Association of Rodeo Enthusiasts in ViSCA or AREV of Visayas State University in Baybay Leyte. This photo is taken from his Facebook page, and used with his permission.

After that feat, the barkers were teasing the next carambola players if anyone would be taking the bull by the horns, like Ace Malate did, for a spot cash prize. But we know this is something that has never happened in the history of Rodeo Masbateno. And probably never will again.

Superman !

 

Dimasalang Masbate

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Dimasalang is a 3rd class municipality on the southern parts of the island province of Masbate. Visitors to Masbate inevitably stay within the city limits or visit the nearby Ticao Island. But out-of-city travel normally comes after visiting the famous sights in Masbate City and its surrounding municipalities.

I first went to Dimasalang last year and did not have enough material to write about the place. Last week, my friends from the group of travel-photography facebook group called FUNtastic Philippines set out for island hopping, after attending the Masbate Rodeo the day before.

We left Masbate before breakfast and were in Dimasalang in less than 2 hours, 67 kilometers away.

First stop was Patio Milagros, a resort hotel that is also the default party and function venue in Dimasalang. We went straight to a picnic hut on the garden overlooking a group of islands we were going to visit. After coffee and native pastries offered by our hosts, we were briefed on our itinerary by the Tourism Officer, Virgilio Natural, known to everyone as simply Ilyo.

PATIO MILAGROS

ISLAND HOPPING AND PORTAVEGA


We boarded a fishing boat at the town’s pier and went straight to the islands, mostly uninhabited. Such beauty. After about 30 minutes of oooohs and ahhhhs, we were brought to Portavega, a very relaxing resort on a cove.

Within Portavega is a very unique, dome-shaped church with Latin words around the dome. Because of its shape, no microphones are necessary during mass. And the religious should not even talk to each other in whispers. the whole congregation will hear what you are talking about.

Lunch was boodle fight consisting of pork dishes, sea food including sea urchins. Drinks were fresh coconut juice. We had for dessert some more native delicacies that looked like camote or balinghoy. I can’t recall exactly how the locals called it.

 

From PortaVega it was a short boat ride back to the pier, less than 15 minutes.

A sidelight was a visit to the statue of our National Hero Jose Rizal, the only known statue of this here where he is sitting down. Jose Rizal, for those who don’t recall lessons from grade school, used “Dimasalang” as his pseudonym when he wrote.

We were briefed on the development plans for the islands. Deep inside, I was hoping that the development will be controlled, and only to add some amenities that will make visitors more comfortable.

As for me, I will be happy pitching a tent at Porta Vega. There is a small store there that sells very basic provisions. And there are toilet facilities, too.

 

HOW TO BOOK AT PATIO MILAGROS:

D’ King Fried Chicken

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Busy during the Juego de Toro at the Masbate Rodeo

 

I attended the new event at the Masbate Rodeo called Juego de Toro and got so hungry especially when I saw the store pictured above from where I was taking photos of the event.  In between the release of cattle, I sneaked into this chicken store. My verdict: they had good tasting fried chicken that is so inexpensive and is a good fill for one’s tummy. I did not say excellent, I said good. That is also because we should all calibrate our expectations depending on the place and the price of the items.

How can one miss with a fried chicken and rice meal for P28? And P40 with soft drinks. I wanted another piece of chicken and my lunch was just a little over P60 I decided to give the change as a tip.

I would eat here again if I happen to be in the area. And I don’t mind suggesting this place to friends. In fact, immediately after, I asked my friends gathered around the venue chicken restaurant to have lunch there.

WHERE IS THIS FRIED CHICKEN PLACE?
Easy to find. Along Rocero within Masbate proper, a building away from the former DBP.

Of course this is, as usual, a recommendation from experience. Like I mentioned, I paid for my meal, and even asked them to keep the change.

 

Baler Revisited

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This is another revisit. April 2017.

On a previous visit, Costa Pacifica was under construction. Now it is the best Baler has to offer, and nothing comes close.

Costa Pacifica has no equal. The 2nd best will be a far 2nd.

Aurora Beach Camp is a campsite no more. It has been developed into a resort called Coconut Plantation.

Not a trace of the old campsite, Coconut Plantation is now a proper resort, with air-conditioned cabanas.

 

There was just a pebbly beach before, now there is a swimming pool with gazebos

 

this cove is the only thing that reminds me of the old camp site

 

While the resort looks nice, I can not see my self staying in this place which is about an hour from Baler’s nerve center, Sabang Beach. The snacking experience was also bad. The “restaurant” is a shared space with guests checked into a room within the restaurant area. we were having snacks while the guests were comfortably slumped in the sofas right beside our table, applying make up, and doing things normally done in the privacy of their cottages. Not their fault. Just bad space planning.

 

I didn’t stay at this resort, and only went for snacks. Ordered “pako” hamburger. I thought it was expensive at P200, way more expensive than the better tasting (for me) Big Mac which even comes with fries.

PASALUBONG CENTER

For some reason, I missed writing about things to buy in Baler. The best place to go to is the Pasalubong Center at the back of the public market. The best buys are Pacing’s coco jam and also shredded beef. Look also for rice cakes and other kakanin in the stalls just outside.

vinagar, including pinakurat in stalls outside th Pasalubong Center. And suman (photo below). There are also several carinderias in the area if you get hungry after shopping

 

WHERE TO EAT IN SABANG BEACH

Yellow Fin : top favorite. At the back of Costa Pacifica

 

Good Food. Inexpensive. With healthy options.

at Good Food, blue marlin with rice (and it is a good size cut of marlin) is P200. Quesadillas was good. Taco was nice. No softdrinks here – – so we had lemon grass for drinks.

 

Vegetarian.

 

ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATIONS. 

There are plenty. Here are some of them just around (at the back, actually) of Costa Pacifica

wherever you end up staying, you will want to be on the shores of Sabang morning and afternoon. Enjoy Baler !

To and from Baler, there is Hillocks Coffee Shop and Restaurant. My favorite stop. Along Pantabangan.

 

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW FOR LAKWATSA TO SEE MORE OF BALER

LAKWATSA

Baler is now more accessible after the roads have been completed and it now takes only a few hours from SCTEX. Before we hit Baler town, we stopped at the centuries old balete tree that is so huge and intricate it can literally carry 100 people at any one time, hanging around it.

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Baler now teems with visitors from Metro Manila, for that now-so-near holiday. Especially for those who love the beach and the surf. In fact, Baler is gives visitors a flavor of either Boracay or Phuket.

Baler Kahea

Baler Aliya

Baler surf2

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Baler resort

Baler Desiree's Inexpensive accommodations on the beach front

Baler Amihan

Baler outdoor Boracay feel – – food and drinks almost on the water

Baler outdoor 2

Baler store Store on the beach front

Other than the main beach lined with hotels, surf shops and restaurants, Baler offers tens of other beach locations. We had lunch in a rather quiet beach, at the Aurora Beach Camp. Here, there were no other visitors and we…

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Costa Pacifica Baler

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This is my nth trip to Baler, but the last was when Costa Pacifica was still being constructed. My first was at Bahia, that beautiful resort with a swimming pool at the front, with beautiful rooms, but really very few. Next thing I knew, there was another Bahia, this time a 3-level structure. Costa Pacifica, built by the same owners, is right between the 2nd Bahia and the ocean.

Today, Costa Pacifica is without equal. Nothing comes close. The resort compares with the best resort hotels I have been to.

As one enters the lobby, the resort feeling immediately sets in. Very tropical. Open space plan, with the huge pool and the ocean right in front of the guests. Tables and deck chairs surround the swimming pool.

The rooms have verandas facing the ocean. Ours was a suite on the second floor with a perfect view of the whole grounds, including the pool and the beach.

The room has 2 comfortable beds, a wardrobe with a safety deposit box, a luggage rack, color tv, a nice big bathroom with a shower and a tub. Two lavatories. Spic and span. With all the bathroom amenities one finds in 5-star hotels and resorts.  Not all rooms have living rooms, but our suite has a good-sized living room with 2 daybeds that double as sofas, another TV with a DVD player, a round breakfast table for 4, a bar counter top with 2 bar stools, a kitchen counter, with coffee and tea facilities. And a fridge stocked with mini bar items. The veranda has two deck chairs and a clothes drying rack.

 

 

the pool deck as seen from our bedroom, on the right

 

when the blinds are up – – the view from our beds

 

the living room, and the living room deck

 

 

Costa Pacifica sits on a huge property that has a long waterfront, probably the longest waterfront property in Baler. The garden has colorful chairs grouped in one section, a gazebo with swing chairs, a swimming pool bar. And nearly everyone gravitates to the shore where surfers get the ooohs and aaaahs from awed guests. I understand that Baler still offers the cheapest surfing lessons, and there are surf boards for rent. And lost of surf instructors.

Buffet breakfast is served at the restaurant called Beach Club. The breakfast spread is sumptuous, with cereals, fruits, breads, omelettes, and rice plus many choices of dishes to go with fried rice.

Outside of Costa Pacifica are a variety of restaurants and bars. And alternative, albeit cheaper, accommodations.

 

But one can say that Costa Pacifica is the nerve center when one comes to Baler for a holiday. One can go around. But the spell of Costa Pacifica will stay in the visitor’s mind for a long time. And this view will probably stay for quite a while, until the visitor encounters another beautiful resort.  Costa Pacifica will have a place in in their guests’  hearts.

I booked online, and you can book thru their website:
http://web.costapacificabalerph.com/

Hillocks Coffee Shop & Restaurant – – on way to Baler

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Pantabangan is a small town so I thought I’d include Baler on the title of this blog. For, indeed, this is my favorite stop on the way to Baler.

I first went to Hillocks about 2 years ago and enjoyed the food and the ambience. It almost doesn’t feel like one is in a rather obscure town – – – for who would really go to Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, to experience Hillocks?

Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised that Emi, the owner, remembered me and my blog name BOYPLAKWATSA when I took my wife and daughter there for lunch on our way to Baler.

You will find Hillocks on the right side of the road, and it is impossible to miss with its elegant country-style structure.

Guests can park right inside the property, and enter from the main door of the restaurant, accessed from the rear, on a trellised path. As one enters the cafe, he will be pleasantly surprised with the set-up. Huge tables with benches for seating. And small coffee tables and chairs on the veranda.

Food is always good. We had Hillocks fried chicken, beef binayabasan, pork belly, and batutay longaniza. Batutay longaniza is an all-day breakfast offering but we decided to order the dish for lunch. We loved it and ordered 4 kilos that we will pick up on our way home.

Make sure you save your hunger pangs for Hillocks when you are on your way to Baler, or to any town of the province of Aurora. Or when you decide to just visit any of the resorts in the town of Pantabangan.

By the way, of particular interest is the white house visible from the property – – the residence of the owners. Clearly, the owner has good taste. And it manifests in the food served at this cafe.

Hillocks is at 497 East Poblacion, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija
Contact Emi at 0906 2090 711
Find them on Facebook:
https://web.facebook.com/hillockscoffeeshopandrestaurant/?fref=ts

(As usual, this blogger paid for his meals, with no special discounts, and this blog is written only to share to fellow travelers the wonderful lunch experience)