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 !


Masbate Rodeo Festival


After attending most festivals in the country (Sinulog, Masskara, Dinagyang, Panagbenga, Kadayawan etc) I can say without fear of contradiction that the Rodeo Festival is the single most exciting, most action-packed festival in the Philippines. Which festival does one go to where sometimes the animals are in control of men?



I arrived on the morning when the most exciting of the rodeo events was going to happen – – the Cattle Drive. I liken it to a FUN RUN except that it is cattle that will be running from the city center to the Rodeo Arena about 2 kilometers away. Some have likened it to RUNNING OF THE BULLS, thinking of Pamplona, Spain.

nearly a hundred cattle at the city center, ready for the cattle drive

nearly a hundred cattle at the city center, ready for the cattle drive



It is the most exciting because of its unpredictability. Imagine some of the nearly 100 cattle going wayward. In the past, the promoters told me that there have been motorbikes parked on the roadside that were damaged. learning form the past, the organizers have sealed off intersections, barricading them with pick-up trucks or other material.

The organizers have cowboys mounted on horses to herd the flock. There are also cowhands (cowboys and cowgirls) stationed in many points to handle cattle that may stray.


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Still, there were at least 3 that went astray. I captured two of them in sequences as I was moving around to cover the event.
The first was about a cow that strayed and went to a SMART loading station, moving on to the BEAUTIFICATION project signage. The cowboys handled the stray cow efficiently.



The second stray cattle I was able to photograph from a moving Red Cross van which I hitched on (I was at the bed).

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Masbeyt April 10 2013 106

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Masbate is proud to have the only permanent structure in the country built purposely for rodeo. It has bull pens, sturdy metal fences to separate the players and the bull from the gallery, a platform for the organizers and the barkers (announcers are called barkers in rodeo shows), and a full stage from where distinguished visitors watch the games.

Arena: bleachers on three sides

Arena: bleachers on three sides

There are also paramedics from the Red Cross around the arena, ever alert if and when a player gets hurt, ready with their stretchers. A clinic is manned right in the complex. well done.

Medical Clinic at the arena

Medical Clinic at the arena


The National Rodeo Finals is participated in by professionals and Agriculture students from all over the country – – as far north as Benguet and as far down south as Buiodnon and Cagayan de Oro.

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Masbeyt Palani and Rodeo Day 3 114 (960x640)

While there are regional competitions, Masbate is the default venue for the national finals. The National Rodeo Director, rancher Leo Gozum, also hails from Masbate.

rightmost is Leo Goizum of Masbate, also the National Rodeo Director

rightmost is Leo Gozum of Masbate, also the National Rodeo Director

Judge Sese, president of the Masbate Ranchers' Assn (on leave)

Judge Sese, president of the Masbate Ranchers’ Assn (on leave)


The events are heart stopping, action packed, so unpredictable, and just so different from what one sees – – – the nearest thing to it is watching a Western-style movie. And oh, the organizers left no stone unturned – – – the music from the sound system is 100% Western-style. Imagine – – – bulls, cows, and cowboys on a dusty arena, with western-style music, with organizers also in full cowboy costume, with whips and lassoes, boots and checkered shirts, cowboy hats – – – the works. There were 2-person carambolas, lassoing, 4-person carambolas, bull-riding, bull whipping, load carrying etc.

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Hats off !

Hats off !

grab the cattle by the legs and by the tail to get it down

grab the cattle by the legs and by the tail to get it down

bull riding

bull riding

rider falls and it has not been 8 seconds

rider falls and it has not been 8 seconds


after summoning the spirits from the 4 corners of the earth, viola, the bonfire was lit

after summoning the spirits from the 4 corners of the earth, viola, the bonfire was lit

The  even ended with a cowboy-style bonfire in the awards ceremonies where trophies designed from bull bells were awarded to the winners. And the main fare was roast calves- –  two of them.

one of two roast calves before dinner was served

one of two roast calves before dinner was served

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Masbeyt Bontod Rodeo 402

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Acting President of the Ranchers’ Assn, Mr Abelita

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one set of winners pose with the organizers

RODEO SCHEDULE 2014: Mark your calendars !

I shall return next year. The rodeo schedule in 2014, as provided by National Rodeo Director Leo Gozum is “the national finals is April 8 to 12, 2014. Grand parade of the rodeo national finals April 8. Cattle Drive April 9. Three (3) major barn parties April 8, April 9, and April 12.”

How to get there:

PAL Express flies propeller planes daily to Masbate. Flights leave at 5:05 am, just in time to arrive in the morning to catch the Day 1 event. Zest Air flies at about the same schedule as PAL Express, with the 2 flights leaving just 5 minutes apart.