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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Masbate Hotels and Resorts

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As I keep returning to Masbate to attend the annual National Rodeo Finals, I find that more and more hotels have opened, and more are opening. In contrast with my first visit to Masbate in 1978 when the only hotel then was one near the pier, and is not anymore operational.

In 2013, I was happy to return with some room choices. And after many more visits, I am ready to share with fellow travelers the accommodations options on this beautiful island. As a Top Contributor on TripAdvisor, I find it strange that only the older, and rather decaying ones, are listed and reviewed. Last week, I caused the listing of a hotel that I thought should be there, so that fellow travelers can likewise share their experiences and prospective visitors will be better guided.

This blog is definitely the most comprehensive listing and review of Masbate hotels to date.

1. RANCHELLE BEACH RESORT AND HOTEL

I stayed at Ranchelle two weeks ago and was so impressed, making me conclude it is the best hotel within the city,  that I immediately wrote a TripAdvisor review, only to find out it was not yet listed. Probably because I am a tripadvisor  Top Contributor, they eventually included Ranchelle in their listing, publishing my review.

Nice clean room, crisp linen, 4 pillows, clean blanket, bottled water, white clean towels.

Nice clean room, crisp linen, 4 pillows, clean blanket, bottled water, white clean towels.

 

native picnic huts near or facing the beach

native picnic huts near or facing the beach

The only downside is that the place can get so busy with weekend outings of local families. I was out most of the day anyway, and the place was blissfully quiet at night.

Room Rates: De Luxe P1,800, Family P2,300, Premier P2,600, Suite P3,300. When I was there, they had a P400 promo discount on the rooms. Includes breakfast, free wifi, and free use of gym. Contact: 056 5780929/09487165915
FB page:Ranchelle Beach resort Kainan sa Tabing Dagat
Website: http://www.ranchelle.com.ph

 

2. LEGACY SUITES

This hotel surprised me when they accommodated my request for a reconfiguration of a family room when I was deciding on which hotel to stay in when I attended Rodeo 2015. The owners (whenever around, as they are in the USA a good part of the year) are very hands on and quite friendly. The location is a plus, having drinks at the front of the hotel while watching the ocean.

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My room, reconfigured to my wishes. Room 8.

My room, reconfigured to my wishes. Room 8. With verandas, albeit small, on both sides.

 

Nice to have drinks or coffee here, front of the hotel, facing the road and the ocean

Nice to have drinks or coffee here, front of the hotel, facing the road and the ocean

Address: Purok 8, Boulevard, Barangay Ibingay
Contact : (056) 582 0210, (056) 588 0423, 0917 600 9372

Rates: Single P1,350, Twin P1,600, Family 1,65o – P3,000

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/legacysuites.masbate

Website : http://www.legacysuites.net

 

3. NOVO HOTEL

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Novo Hotel is the only high-rise hotel in downtown Masbate, right smack at the city center. It is extremely popular because of its location and inexpensive pricing. Aircondtioned rooms go for P900 for 24 hours, and check out is dependent on the guest’s check in. The presidential suite goes for a mere P1,400, (but was racked up to P1,700 on the week of the city’s most popular event, the Rodeo festival. All room rates actually go up during this peak season). The bigger family room is just slightly more expensive.

Presidential Suite

Presidential Suite

Telephone number +63 56 578 0687. Call to check if they have a room: this hotel does not accept reservations.

 

4. GREENVIEW HOTEL

I stayed at Greenview on my first rodeo in 2013. The top floor of the unit burned the other year, but the hotel has since been fully restored. Pretty nice hotel, nothing luxurious but good value.

The room at the structure before the main building is nice.

The room at the structure before the main building is nice.

Breakfast/coffee/drinks spot

Breakfast/coffee/drinks spot

Address: Nursery Street

Contact: (056) 33 6241, 0920 611 9650

Rates: My room was P1,500.

 

5. SAFE HOUSE

This is a new option, tucked away in Himomoro, within Masbate City. Best reference is Gagay Resort, right beside the new Safe House. Safe House at the moment only has two airconditioned rooms but accommodations for each room can go as many as 6 pax, with extra mattresses provided by the owner. Presently under construction is an events venue, plus two more rooms.

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Safe House has become a destination. It has the “I Love (heart) Masbate” sign with the very famous Buntod Reef on the background. Even the province’s Vice Governor went to safe House for that beautiful photo op.

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Another attraction is the steel railing where lovers can seal their love for each other with pad locks, inspired by how lovers seal their loves with pad locks on bridges in Paris.

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Contact: Cliffords 111, phone number 09287786888

Rate: P1,200 per day

 

6. BALAY VALENCIA

This is a preferred accommodation by sensible, budget-conscious travelers, including foreign backpackers and local executives who want local flavor in an old provincial home. No fuzz, just comfortable accommodations. Flowing coffee, mineral water, cheap wifi, free breakfast.

tucked along quiet Ibanez Street, at the city center

tucked along quiet Ibanez Street, at the city center

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feel at home

feel at home

Contact: (056) 333 6530

Contact: (056) 333 6530

7.  7-AR  RESORT

I instantly liked 7-AR when I saw this resort-hotel. Only, I was told by a friend that the rooms are small. And I personally like spacious rooms, so I have not stayed here yet. But I checked out the rooms two weeks ago and, while the rooms are not big, they I thought were good enough. The plus is the hotel’s location, and the beautiful swimming pool by the beach-side.

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Not big, but I thought this is comfortable

Not big, but I thought this is comfortable

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8. MG HOTEL

MG Hotel is described in old reviews as the best hotel in Masbate. Indeed, I was told that President PNoy stayed there when the plane carrying Secretary Robredo crashed, and the president and his cabinet trooped to Masbate. When i stayed there last, I noticed that the hotel was not well maintained, and I noted this poor maintenance in my review. Not really that bad, maybe it was just my room. But after seeing the other hotels, MG can not lay claim to being the best.

My third floor room

My third floor room

MG Restaurant, coffee shop

MG Restaurant, coffee shop

a kiddie pool?

a kiddie pool?

 

9. BAMBI HOTEL

Bambi Hotel used to be Sea Blick, then managed by MG Hotel. As a stand alone hotel, they now have their own coffee shop. Room rates include breakfast, hot and cold showers, cable TV, wifi, transfers to and from the airport or pier, and they have a stand by generator. A pleasant surprise is that they accept all major credit cards, in very sharp contrast with most Masbate hotels.

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10. RENDEZVOUS RESORT

Rendezvous is one of the earlier hotels in the city, and has been home to many famous personalities. However, with the opening of newer hotels, Rendevous has become a mid-range hotel. It was also a most visited destination when the wharf going to the famous Buntod Reef was still operational, but the wharf has gone down because of a recent typhoon. I chose to have lunch here on my last visit. The al fresco setting by the beach is always a nice lunch or dinner experience. A major plus is the amiable owner/manager of the resort hotel, an active community personality and a warm host.

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Testimonials from past guests

Testimonials from past guests

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Address: Punta, Nursery, Masbate City

Contact : (056) 333 4751, 0905 327 2778

Rates: P800 – P1,500. Breakfast not included. Wifi in Restaurant.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rendezvousresortph

 

11. ST. ANTHONY HOTEL

I have been seeing this hotel on my past visits and so I decided to check this out two weeks ago. It is right smack at the city center, along Quezon Street, the city’s main road.  The entrance to the hotel is a narrow hallway from the road, beside a restaurant. The hotel signage is prominent, and can not be missed.

the mosy expensive room of the hotel has a good orthopedic bed and high quality beddings. P2,500.

the most expensive room of the hotel has a good orthopedic bed and high quality beddings. P2,500.

the typical aircon room

the typical aircon room

Rates:

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Contact St Anthony Hotel at (056) 333 2180, 0946 821 2580

12. GV HOTEL

I once stayed at GV Hotel so that, as a blogger, I can share hotel standards and services from the best hotel to the least. I rate GV the least, until I come across a lesser hotel. Strange that this hotel which is part of a chain does not even have a coffee shop, nor a store. I had to go out of the hotel to buy biscuits, bread, and drinks tto tide me over when I get hunger pangs at night. The hotel’s maintenance also needs improvement. I asked to be transfered to another room because of the stink in the room originally assigned to me. For travelers on a budget, GV can be an acceptable accommodation. as long as you know how to cope. And make sure you get a clean room.

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Address: Danao Street, Masbate City

Contact : (056) 333 6844

Rates: Fan Room P1,050, Standard AC P1,440, De Luxe P1,800, De Luxe family (4pax) P2,800. The hotel runs promo rates with 50% discount on some months.
Website: http://www.gvhotels.com.ph/masbate/masbate.hotel

 

13. BACH COTTAGES

When I visited, the signage was not even up yet. So if you go right now, you may not find it. The one in charge just mentioned that the name of the whole property will be Bach Cottages. In case you visit and not see the sign, look for the cluster of cottages beside the Magrovetum on the Boulevard, in between the mangroves and the activity hall of the Masons, before Rendezvous Resort.

country-style cottages

country-style cottages

not a hotel, and not run by skilled hotel housekeeping staff. Backpacker-type accommodations in a lovely setting

not a hotel, and not run by skilled hotel housekeeping staff. Backpacker-type accommodations in a lovely setting

Address: Robredo Boulevard, near mangroves (Mangrovetum)

Contact: Nathaniel Guadayo, phone 0915 5006330

Rates: P750 for 2 pax, aircon, P500 for non-aircon room

 

 

AROUND MASBATE CITY

 

14. BITUON BEACH RESORT

Bituon is 10 kms east of Masbate, in the town of Mobo. It is an extremely popular resort, with more than one kilometer of white sand beach. There are huts and tables for picnickers, as well as non-aircon and aircon cottages facing the beach. Yet there are cozy, well-appointed rooms that cater to the more discriminating. A popular TV personality who visited and taped for his travel show stayed at Bituon.

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their best rooms are cozy, with amenities like ref etc

their best rooms are cozy, with amenities like ref etc

 

Address: Bituon Beach Resort, Bagacay, Mobo, Masbate

Contact: (056)3332 2197, 0917 548 3938

Rates: From P800 (duplex, non aircon, single bed) to P3,500 (executive room, aircon, cable TV, Ref, bathtub, hot and cold shower, breakfast for 2

Website: http://www.bituonbeach.com

 

15. TICAO ISLAND RESORT

This accommodation is on another island. I went there by boat from masbate City, and thru a habal habal (backride) on a single motorbike. Ticao Island Resort is popular as a dive resort and clients mostly come by boat from Donsol, Sorsogon. I was the only Filipino when I checked in at Ticao Island Resort. It is  high-end : P7,000 cottage that can accommodate 2 pax,  full board. If you travel solo you still have to pay the full rate of the cottage. It is beautiful, though, and worth the price.

 

 

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the very simple P7,000 a night cottage

the very simple P7,000 a night cottage

Address: Barangay Tacdungan, San Jacinto, Ticao Island, Province of Masbate

Contact Details: 0906 324 3116, 0906 324 3034

Website: http://www.ticao-island-resort.com

 

16, MAYONG PAYONG

This is not a hotel nor a resort. But when I went there I found out that the cottages can be rented for P200 overnight. There are no provisions. The floor is made of bamboo slats. My friends who stayed overnight brought thick blankets and jackets with them as the temperature up this hill can drop in the evenings. A couple sells coffee and other canned goods. Best to bring your provisions. Visitors are not guaranteed of accommodations, and you may want to be ready to pitch a tent. There is a toilet within the premises.

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Mayong Payong is on top of a hill in nearby Mobo. Visitors hire habal habal (back-ride on a single motorbike) from the turn off at the highway. Ask around how to get there.

 

17. COCO VIEW LAGOON

Coco View Lagoon is a picnic destination featuring a series of fresh water pools from a waterfall that flows into the property. sections have been created to manage the depths of the pool such that there are kiddie pools. Picnic huts are rented for P200- P400 depending on size. Overnight accommodations can also be arranged in air-conditioned rooms.

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overnight accommodations

overnight accommodations

Address; Umabay Interior, Mobo, Masbate

Contact : Darlene Torrecampo, phone 09084266077

Rates: P1,000 and P1,200 per room, aircon

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Coco-View-Lagoon-Umabay-Mobo

 

18. BUNTOD REEF

Buntod Reef is a protected marine reserve. A marine sanctuary frequented by visitors during daytime. I have heard of friends who have stayed overnight. Check with the Tourism Office who can coordinate with the Marine sanctuary if you intend to camp overnight on this most beautiful Masbate white sand beach, actually a sand bar. If the authorities would not anymore allow overnight camping on the reef, just then try to visit for the day.

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19. CAMP ON AN ISLAND.

Masbate has many islands with pristine white sand beaches, many of them unknown to most locals. I went one such island then, actually with a long sand bar at low tide. The island is called Nabuktuk and is accessed from the pier of Mandaon. You might yet find your “old man and the sea” story.

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20. RANCH LIFE AT LA FORTALEZA

 

This is a most unique accommodation, and available only in San Juan, Mandaon, around Masbate. Stay overnight on a pitched tent on top of a hill within a working ranch. A package of only P600 per head per day includes a pitched tent, with toilet and shower facilities, horseback trail ride, trekking/hiking within the ranch, opportunity to observe cattle herding, opportunity to try ranch work like grooming and feeding horses, fence repair and replacement etc. Be a cowboy / cowgirl !

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see how cowboys herd cattle

see how cowboys herd cattle

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My friends and I pitched tents then, had bonfire at night, and watched the stars as we enjoyed our drinks.

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Ranch Life/Ranch Tour can be arranged thru  phone # 0906 2481108

 

HOW TO GO TO MASBATE

Philippine Airlines flies to Masbate daily.

Visitors can also take a bus from Cubao and  go straight to Masbate, via ro-ro in either Pilar or Pio Duran ports. Regular buses cost P1,000 one-way, inclusive of the ro-ro. Special Isarog buses with toilets and reclining seats also ply the route at P2,000n fare one way.

 

 

 

 

Ticao Island

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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

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The boat from the Masbate Pier

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.

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Entry into the seats on the boat is via the bamboo planks on the side, and then you slide into the seats.

 

FOUR TOWNS

 

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.

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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.

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must be a 7-kilo catch

I traveled the island on habal habal (back-ride on a motorbike) as there are no other means of transportation in Ticao. My next stop was the town of San Fernando.
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Next to San Fernando is the island’s mother town, the progressive municipality of San Jacinto.

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This is where the bishop stays when he is on the island

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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.

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This is a very old church, but the exteriors have been repainted and now looks rather new. The old design can be gleaned from this view, though

The last town is Monreal. The church was also renovated and updated, but the old homes got me worked up.

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This century house is open to visitors, but the owner was away when I came to Monreal

Monreal is also where one finds Matang Tubig, a spring resort on Barangay Real.
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a never-ending supply of fresh water from the bosom of the earth

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)

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CATANDAYAGAN FALLS

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.

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emptying its waters straight to the sea

 

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

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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.

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weren’t we really hungry !

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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. Image

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a waterfront cabana with airconditioning, 2 beds, a clean toilet and shower, and a small veranda

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the restaurant staff gave good service and wide smiles

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buffet dinner catered to international guets

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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!

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Boarded this ferry the next morning to arrive in Masbate City at 7am to catch the Grand Parade to open Rodeo 2014