Masbate. So Beautiful. So Underrated.

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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.

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Bull riding

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Barn dance at the Rodeo opening ceremonies

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.

From wikipedia:

“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.

 

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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.

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Rodeo is big in Masbate, complete with the only proper rodeo arena in the country, and in Asia

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 REEF
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.

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mangroves were planted and maintained/preserved in this marine sanctuary

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CATANDAYAGAN FALLS

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.

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PALANI BEACH

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.

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AROROY LIGHTHOUSE

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.

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BALUD LIGHTHOUSE

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.

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SUTUKIL RESTAURANT

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.

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LASALA BEACH
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.

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Little Malacanang

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view from Little Malacanang – – an ocean going vessel

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RANCH LIFE
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.

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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.

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SIGSAG

Locals call the zigzag road SIGSAG. It is a beautiful winding road with a view of the hills and plains.

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BAT-ONGAN CAVE

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.

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Bat-ongan Cave from a distance. The cave is what looks like a mound

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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

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a view while going around the coastal city of Masbate

 

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.

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my room at MG Hotel, at P2,400 per night

 

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a small pool at MG Hotel

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the coffee shop at MG Hotel

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Greenview Hotel, where I stayed in 2013, at I think P1,500 per room per night

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the outdoor section of the coffee shop at Greenview

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Rendezvous Hotel, where the wharf to Buntod is

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I snapped this photo of the room rates at Rendezvous in April 2013

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I almost wanted to stay at 7 AR because it looks most beautiful. But I am told the rooms are rather small

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7 AR looks more like a resort

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and because I did not stay here, I thought I’d just have lunch. Not bad, but not memorable either. I just liked the ambience

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GV is at the heart of downtown Masbate, near the Masbate Cathedral. It is part of a local hotel chain. I understand the rates are very reasonable

 

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:

Airconditioned rooms:

Single 650 1room

Double 800 2rooms

Triple 950 2rooms

 

Fan rooms:

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:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/masbate.is.fun/

SEE YOU IN MASBATE !

Buntod Reef

Buntod Reef is a few minutes boat ride. White sands.

 

 

Manila’s Old Churches

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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

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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.

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On the day of my visit, the faithful were already in droves, some doing the Station of the Cross at the church yard.

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QUIAPO CHURCH

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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.

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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.

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SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH

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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.

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MANILA CATHEDRAL

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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.Image

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STA ANA CHURCH

Sta Ana Church, Our Lady of the Abandoned

Sta Ana Church, Our Lady of the Abandoned

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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.”

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BINONDO CHURCH

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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

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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.

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MALATE CHURCH

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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.

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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.

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TONDO CHURCH (STO. NINO)
ImageImageImage 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)Image

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.
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CHURCH OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL

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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.ImageImage

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Adamson University

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Masbate Rodeo 2014

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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.

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student and professional teams joined the parade

Father Mark

cowboy priest, Father Mark Sese

Gov Joey on foot

guest of honor, Albay Governor Joey Salceda

Judge Sese

El Presidente, Judge Manuel Sese

Libona

Libuna team, with Rodeo King Kenneth Ramunal

Magayon

Magayon Dancers brought in by Governor Joey Salceda from Albay

Maloli

Rodeo Masbateno official Maloli Espinosa

whipcracking on the road

whip cracking demo on the road while on parade

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my favorite Rodeo 2014 team, Benguet State University

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CATTLE DRIVE
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.

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140 heads of cattle at the city center, prior to the cattle drive

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real-life cowboys herding the cattle thru the city streets

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THE EVENTS

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.

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Bull riding is the most exciting. Cowboys need only to ride the bull for 8 seconds to qualify. This one obviously didn’t make it, and was lucky he was not harmed

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2-person carambola. Even a rodeo official escapes from a rampaging bull by climbing the fence

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this event is called CASTING DOWN. The cattle must be roped in by the head and by the diaphragm, and must be felled and tied down

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I liked this event last year and decided to support the rodeo this year

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I took this photo on day one, and this guy covering his face would turn out to be the Rodeo King, student division

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This event called PENNING was introduced only this year. Cowboys need to pen in 2 cows, selected at random. No other cow has to be in the pen to qualify and, if an unwanted cow joins, it must be extricated or else the team loses

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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.

 

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TAKING CARE OF ANIMALS AND MEN

 

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the cattle were taken care of and well fed throughout the event

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a medical team is always on standy

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.

Fireworks started the awards ceremonies

Fireworks started the awards ceremonies

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the barkers during the events were also the night's emcees

the barkers during the events were also the night’s emcees

The president of Rodeo Masbateno, Inc was there - - Judge Manuel Sese

The president of Rodeo Masbateno, Inc was there – – Judge Manuel Sese

the participants and guests

the participants and guests

photographers and TV networks covered the event from start to finish

photographers and TV networks covered the event from start to finish

live cowboy music

live cowboy music

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(Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate) in a celebratory mood

(Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate) in a celebratory mood

the traditional cowboy cigar, lit to mark the rodeo's success

the traditional cowboy cigar, lit to mark the rodeo’s success

The night was capped by merry making - - drinks and line dancing

The night was capped by merry making – – drinks and line dancing

 

Next year’s rodeo is scheduled April 14-18, 2015. I will again be there.