Our Lady of Piat, Cagayan Valley

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At first I thought this beautiful church was in Tuguegarao. Then Waze directed me to the town of Piat,  42  kilometers  from Tuguegarao City.

It felt like Manaoag with the hundreds of devotees. I thought this was going to be some sleepy town with a beautiful church.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Piat  is one of the twelve minor basilicas in the country, and is home to the 400+ year old Black Virgin Mary.

I went to several churches in the region and noticed that most of them, like the Basilica of Our Lady of Piat, are made of red bricks, unlike the churches in the Visayas made mostly of coral rocks and stones.

The altar looks like the one in Manaoag, with the image of Our Lady of Piat enclosed in a glass case. Access is at the rear of the church where pilgrims queue towards a staircase leading to the glass-enclosed image – – where they can touch the dress of Our Lady.

Notice the man inside the glass case on the altar – – he is one of the hundreds who queued at the rear of the church for access to touch Our Lady’s dress

 

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)

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:

Masbate: Big City

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I have always been wondering how others who have not been to Masbate think of this place. To confess, I also had images of my 1978 visit ( small, backward, very very provincial)  when I returned in 2013. Back in 1978 there was only one hotel, located near the pier, where hotel staff delivered to my room a pail of water when I took a bath.

MASBATE PROVINCE

Masbate Province has a booming population estimated at 950,000 in 2016. Made up of 20 municipalities and 1 city. Two big islands, Ticao and Burias form the province’s First District. Masbate City and the towns around it, including the province’s biggest town of Aroroy form District 2. The Third district includes the big towns of Placer and Cawayan, the two most populated towns after Masbate City, and Cataingan, the farthest town that is close enough to Iloilo.

Ticao Island Resort is within the First District

Ticao Island  is within the First District

 

Most of the hotels, B&Bs and resorts are in the Second District

Most of the hotels, B&Bs and resorts are in the Second District

 

the Third District hosts more beaches and island resorts

the Third District hosts more beaches and island resorts

Around 80% of land in the province is used for farms and ranches, making Masbate a cowboy country, and officially the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines.

Get to visit a farm and watch how cattle is herded

Get to visit a farm and watch how cattle is herded

 

THE CITY OF MASBATE

Masbate today looks like any provincial city. No, not like the premier cities of Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao. It is the capital city of the province of Masbate, and the center of commerce. It is big and at the same time small. No traffic typical of the big cities. But has all the comforts – – it has malls and department stores, as well as the fast food joints that “define” how cities and towns have progressed. There are banks and other financial institutions that visitors will need to withdraw cash from ATM, or transfer/receive funds thru any of the “pera padala” centers.

Gaisano Mall

Gaisano Mall

Buy things for your gadgets in case you left them at home

Buy things for your gadgets in case you left them at home

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LCC, the largets chain of malls, supermarkets and express stores in the Bicol region is present in Masbate

LCC, the largets chain of malls, supermarkets and express stores in the Bicol region is present in Masbate

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as the provincial capital, Masbate City is where the universities and colleges in Masbate are found

as the provincial capital, Masbate City is where the universities and colleges in Masbate are found

The Grand Rodeo Arena is within the city

The Grand Rodeo Arena is within the city

 

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

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FASTFOODS AND LOCAL RESTOS

Sutukil is the best local restaurant, good food, very low prices

Sutukil is the best local restaurant, good food, very low prices

 

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WHAT TO VISIT WITHIN THE CITY LIMITS

Masbate is not just the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines. Within the city are tourist attractions, resorts, and resort hotels. Transport within the city is via tricycles and fare is only P8 per person.

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

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

 

Visit the Santo Entierro at the heritage house called Villa Bayot

Visit the Santo Entierro at the heritage house called Villa Bayot

 

a mangrove park at the Boulevard, near the hotels

a mangrove park at the Boulevard, near the hotels

 

the famous cowboy monument - - - this is rodeo country

the famous cowboy monument – – – this is rodeo country

 

the cathedral, at the city center

the cathedral, at the city center

 

Tricyles are easy to find, or are on queue in malls, fastfoods, and in many parts of the main street

Tricyles are easy to find, or are on queue in malls, fastfoods, and in many parts of the main street

 

The people are nice, and I have returned many times because of the many friends I have made. They have accompanied me to the different spots around Masbate and have had drinks with them in bars or in a “tambayan” at a friend’s carport.

One of the many bars and restaurants dotting the BOULEVARD area. This one is called "Kuya Nathan".

One of the many bars and restaurants dotting the BOULEVARD area. This one is called “Kuya Nathan”.

Another friend says he returns to Masbate every year not just for the rodeo, but to be with friends we have made. I personally truly believe that visitors go to a place to see interesting sights for the first time, and return to be with friends they made. Masbatenos are truly a wonderful breed of people, contrary to the image created in people’s minds resulting from the past. This is a New Masbate. Come visit.

Buy interesting pasalubong at Fazenda, found on the cathedral grounds

Buy interesting pasalubong at Fazenda, found on the cathedral grounds

 

WHERE CAN I STAY?

I recently wrote about accommodations options, to guide anyone wishing to see this beautiful island province.

https://boyplakwatsa.com/2016/03/09/20-masbate-hotels-and-other-accommodations-options/

 

HOW TO GET TO MASBATE

Philippine Airlines flies daily to Masbate, leaving Terminal 3 at 5:05 am. Visitors will have one full day when they get to the city.

You can also travel by land. Buses leave Cubao and are loaded onto roll-on-roll-off boats between Pilar in Sorsogon and Masbate City such that visitors can travel direct from Quezon City to Masbate City. Travel time is from 16 to 18 hours. Visitors can also bring their cars and take the roro so they can travel around Masbate in their own cars.

Masbate is interesting year round. A bonus when you visit mid April is the Rodeo National Finals

Masbate is interesting year round. A bonus when you visit mid April is the Rodeo National Finals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BoyPLakwatsa on Adobo magazine

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A cut and paste from adobo magazine, photos added by me.

With a Tagaytay resthouse located amidst a hilly and pineapple-studded area that requires precise instructions to locate, it doesn’t take long for any guest to feel at home at boyplakwatsa’s (blog name to replace name mentioned on article)  little hideaway. A quirky hot bath tub sourced from Antique in one corner of the property, and is an authentic Ifugao dwelling is tucked away among the greenery in another part of the lot, it’s difficult to say “no” when you’ve been invited to dine for lunch or even stay overnight.

Hot Bath

Hot Bath

 

Authentic Ifugao house built by native men from Banaue, Ifugao

Authentic Ifugao house built by native men from Banaue, Ifugao

 

An enthusiastic traveler who got his start going door-to-door or town-to-town gathering data for marketers as an interviewer/researcher, boyplakwatsa has been to more places in the country than the average Pinoy. What area did he enjoy visiting on the job?“I enjoyed the Bondoc Peninsula towns of Unisan and Macalelon. I remember we were accommodated in the riverside resthouse of the then mayor of Unisan, and rode a boat on the river after the day’s work. I also discovered that saging na saba (plantains) can be grilled, and enjoyed this merienda (afternoon snack) immensely. In Macalelon, we even experienced doing a harana (serenade).”

 

BoyPLakwatsa hasn’t tamed his wandering ways. In fact, he’s channeled it into a blog: boyplakwatsa.com. He humorously recalls one road trip that went (literally) south: “One morning in Tagaytay, I decided to travel and phoned my wife that I’d be going to Baguio. Along Sta. Rosa Road, I thought maybe I should go to Baler instead, and asked a friend to make hotel arrangements. When I entered SLEX, I changed my mind and decided to do a longer trip, went southbound instead. Guess what, that impulse took me to the island province of Catanduanes. Along the way, I went on a 4X4 ride on then practically non-existent roads to Caramoan, intrigued by the fact that the Survivor TV series was filmed there many, many times.“

 

Reflecting on the manner he travels locally, BoyP muses: “When I travel, it is really not the destination. I really just enjoy traveling and the discoveries along the way. Sometimes that discovery can actually be just a nice little carinderia by the roadside.”

 

Asked to name his top three Philippine destinations, Pangilinan enumerates: “The only spot I haven’t been to is the province of Quirino. When I was in the region once, I had wanted to go inwards and explore this province, but did not have enough time. I was told that practically the whole province sits on a series of caves. Who knows, but one day I might just visit Quirino, and never see the town but just go spelunking.“

Where will my feet take me to today?

Where will my feet take me to today?

 

“The other place on my bucket list is actually going to be a return visit since I actually went there when I was way younger – like 34 years ago. I refer to Jolo which I have not visited recently because of the stories on terrorism and kidnappings. But I do want to go because I remember it to be a uniquely beautiful place and I want to be able to take photos and blog about it. I am actually making arrangements with a friend.”

 

“My next trip is a return to Masbate with a group of photographer friends. Instead of flying, we are doing a road trip and be able to shoot along the way. Masbate is so beautiful and so under-rated (that is also the title of my blog on this province) that I feel like I can help boost their tourism initiatives so that more travelers will discover and enjoy its beauty.”

Masbate is the roeo capital ofthe Philippines, and is a unique travel destination. Camping on top of a hill on a ranch is an ultimate ranch experience

Masbate is the roeo capital ofthe Philippines, and is a unique travel destination. Camping on top of a hill on a ranch is an ultimate ranch experience

 

As an adventurer with a penchant for the unusual, is there a mode of transport he hasn’t tried yet? “I am obsessed with being able to try any mode of transport. Other than planes, boats, and buses, I have been on a hot air balloon in Sydney, in a submarine in Guam, in a helicopter in Niagara. I have taken habal-habal (motorcycle) rides to mountainous resorts otherwise inaccessible on four wheels. Probably the most exciting was being on top of a heap of logs on a truck in Dingalan negotiating a zigzag where, if I don’t hold on, I could fall from the truck to the ravine. But then again, almost as exciting is the boat ride from Basco, Batanes to the island of Sabtang on a falowa, a small boat without outriggers, navigating the treacherous waters where the Pacific meets the West Philippine Sea, with huge waves as high as 9 feet ahead of us, without life vests, in the early 80s.”

 

For someone with a defined taste for travel, we can only wish an interesting trip whenever BoyP Lakwatsa steps out of his front door.

– See more at: http://www.adobomagazine.com/philippine-news/alyas-boyp-lakwatsa-also-known-boyp-wanderer#sthash.IPyQt0BX.94VUJu2o.dpuf

SUTUKIL IN MASBATE

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not a hole-in-the-wall

not a hole-in-the-wall

I first went to SUTUKIL in Masbate on my first rodeo visit. The place was recommended to me by a local, and so I went. I enjoyed the food immensely and so I brought in a big group two days later. After the sumptuous meal, our bill was only like P200 each, including tip.

SUTUKIL is in the rodeo capital of the Philippines, and a rodeo display greets diners

SUTUKIL is in the rodeo capital of the Philippines, and a rodeo display greets diners

I have since returned many times, and SUTUKIL has been a ritual. I must have lunch or dinner there every time I visit. The most wonderful thing is that their menu has not changed since then, and the price has been the same since 2013. In spite of the fact that the restaurant now looks very different from what was then like a hole in the wall.

The same menu board I first saw in 2013, and prices have not changed. This board has moved many times, as SUTUKIL was expanding little by little.

The same menu board I first saw in 2013, and prices have not changed. This board has moved many times, as SUTUKIL was expanding little by little.

 

Today, a concrete structure stands, with a spacious function hall at the second floor. I learned that rooms for travelers will soon be made available on the third floor. Indeed, business is good. Why? Because they have kept to the positioning : excellent food at very low prices.

 

When I visited a few weeks back, the second floor function room, airconditioned, was booked for an event by a the local  chapter of a worldwide civic group

When I visited a few weeks back, the second floor function room, airconditioned, was booked for an event by a the local chapter of a worldwide civic group

Three weeks ago, I was just there with 2 friends. We had so much food that 5 diners could still be full. But because SUTUKIL dishes are very good and inexpensive, we ended up ordering more than what we could normally eat. If 5 people had our meal, the bill will be a little over P150 each. And that is essentially how each one of us paid as our share 3 years ago.

the regular dining area at the ground floor

the regular dining area at the ground floor

 

SUTUKIL is short for Sugba, Tula, and Kilaw. Here is the Sugba.

SUTUKIL is short for Sugba, Tula, and Kilaw. Here is the Sugba.

 

. . . and the Tula and Kilaw. Plus my all-time favorite steamed or buttered scallops

. . . and the Tula and Kilaw. Plus my all-time favorite steamed or buttered scallops

Way to go, SUTUKIL Masbate.

Sutukil Masbate is in Barangay Kinamaligan. If you don’t have private transport, tricycles can bring you there.

(I endorse this good-value restaurant without any strings attached. We have always paid for the full amount of our orders, and never asked for any discounts,)

LAKWATSA

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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.

Image Photo taken in 2013 when I visited this restaurant first. There was still no air-conditioned section.

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.

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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…

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Rodeo Festival 2016 Masbate, Philippines

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The 2016 Festival Logo

The 2016 Festival Logo

 

The most exciting National Rodeo Finals is ongoing at the Masbate Grand Arena, with Awards night on the 16th.

I have been attending the festival for three years in a row, and I have booked my flight and my hotel for this year, too. Some friends are saying they will be in Masbate for up to 3 weeks, finding the rodeo week a rather short period to truly enjoy Masbate. Yes, Masbate is the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines, and hosts the biggest rodeo event in the Philippines. maybe even the biggest in all of Asia.  And on top of the rodeo, visitors will find side-trips to be so rewarding, seeing waterfalls, white sand beaches, centuries-old lighthouses, and many more attractions.

First of all, the Rodeo.

Masbate has the only proper rodeo arena in the country. Whereas all the rodeos I have visited make do with bamboo to fence off the arena, and some with GI pipes temporarily welded, Masbate has sturdy fences, a proper stage, bleachers, and a stand for the rodeo officials. There is also a canteen, and a medical facility, plus a whole complement of Red Cross volunteers. There is also a proper stockyard where the cattle is kept, supervised by veterinarians to make sure the cattle are properly handled, properly fed.

Clearing the Arena

The event started with a parade around the city  to the arena. Participants from the competing teams from all over the country, professionals and students taking vet-med or other agri-animal related courses join officials and ranch owners as they walk or ride horses to the arena.  This year, there were Manila based personalities like Congressman Roman Romulo, Congressman Sherwin Gatchalian, Ms Risa Hontiveros, broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez-Roxas, and guests of honor Mr Andre Kahn, chairman and owner of ad agency J Romeo, and Monette Ituralde Hamlin of Team Asia. The city mayor, the Congressman from the third district of Masbate, town mayors from around Masbate City, and the provincial Governor Vince Revil plus his wife, Vice Governor Kaye Revil came in full force, in cowboy get up. Truly cowboy country.  Opening ceremonies were held, including a ceremonial cattle branding led by Rodeo Masbateno Inc. President Judge Manuel Sese and the guests. An exhibition bull riding and casting down events came thereafter. The real games begin in the afternoon. I have yet to take photos of the 2016 games – – – meanwhile I have posted photos I took from previous rodeos in Masbate to give you a glimpse of what to expect.

Parade

On Day 2, the traditional Cattle Drive begins. About 120 cattle from the city center are released and are herded by cowboys on the city streets towards the arena. I have called this in the past “Fun Run ng Mga Baka”. Some friends have likened it to the “Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Rodeo Masbateno, Inc also hosts the Rodeo Festival, scheduled April 12-17 this year (2016). In photo is the Cattle Drive which ushers the start of the rodeo season.

Rodeo Masbateno, Inc also hosts the Rodeo Festival, scheduled April 12-17 this year (2016). In photo is the Cattle Drive which ushers the start of the rodeo season.

 

The events will keep you riveted. Bring your cameras and click away. To some people, the most awaited event is Bull Riding. In here, cowboys mount the bull from inside a pen, and need to be on top and riding the bull as it is released. It takes 8 seconds to qualify, and yet majority actually fall on the first second or so.  Those who make it are scored based on how they rode the bull, how they held their hats on the other hand, and how they managed the bull. It is a show, a spectacle.

Bull Riding

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Another event some people find as their favorite is the carambola. It can be a 2-man carambola, a 4-man carambola. There is also a women’s division. Carambola is played with two teams of competing cowboys chasing 2 cows on the arena. The first team that grabs a cattle by the neck “owns” the cattle and they just need to bring the cattle down and tie the cattle’s feet. If the cattle is unable to rise after 10 seconds, it is ruled as a good play. Participants compete for the best time.

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Carambola

 

There is also casting down. Teams lasso the cattle and then throw a lasso around its torso so they can pull and cast the cattle down, and tie its feet.

Casting Down

 

There are also lassoing events. Either in foot, or on horseback.

Parade

 

The events are officiated by members of VROoM, the Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate, and mounted by the Rodeo Masbateno, Inc., supported by the provincial and city governments of Masbate as well as the private sector.

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National Rodeo Director Leo Gozum, extreme right.

 

RMI Board of Trustees meeting on Rodeo 2016

RMI Board of Trustees meeting on Rodeo 2016

 

 

AFTER OR IN BETWEEN THE RODEO: Around Masbate

Buntod Reef. Within Masbate City.

Buntod Reef. Within Masbate City.

 

Mangroves at Buntod

Mangroves at Buntod

 

Mandaon

a beautiful Mandaon zigzag view

 

Bat-ongan Cave. Mandaon Town

Bat-ongan Cave. Mandaon Town

 

Catandayagan Falls. Approached from Buntod. Part of Ticao Island

Catandayagan Falls. Approached from Buntod. Part of Ticao Island

 

Punta Bugui Lighthouse. Aroroy

Punta Bugui Lighthouse. Aroroy

 

Balud Lighthouse. Jintotolo, Balud

Balud Lighthouse. Jintotolo, Balud

 

Famous Palani beach

Famous Palani beach

 

 

Learn how to make tapa

Learn how to make tapa

 

Get to visit a farm and watch how cattle is herded

Get to visit a farm and watch how cattle is herded

 

Fazenda, a beautiful rehab center operated by the religious

Fazenda, a beautiful rehab center operated by the religious

 

Have lunch or dinner at the city's most famous SuTuKil, extremely good food at very affordable prices

Have lunch or dinner at the city’s most famous SuTuKil, extremely good food at very affordable prices

 

Visit the Santo Entierro at the heritage house called Villa Bayot

Visit the Santo Entierro at the heritage house called Villa Bayot

 

If you have more time, island hop and you might just find this old man and the sea

If you have more time, island hop and you might just find this old man and the sea

 

Get your gears ready. Pack your summer shirts and shorts, swimwear, and cameras. Book early. And be at the most exciting festival there is in the Philippines. The Masbate Rodeo festival. April 12-17, 2016.

Please see the Rodeo Masbateno facebook for more details

https://www.facebook.com/Rodeo-Masbate%C3%B1o-325913524107222/

 

Rodeo Festival facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/rodeofestival/?fref=ts

Rodeo 2016 Logo final