PHL cattle capital Masbate reveals tourism treats

It's right at the heart of the Philippine archipelago, but Masbate is a relatively unknown tourist spot. For Masbate residents, this is both a wonder and blessing.

This province in the Bicol region is rarely thought of as a vacation destination, but with its unique claim to fame as the Cattle Capital of the Philippines, Masbate offers some unusual activities.

A cattle ranch in the town of Balud, Masbate In the summer, bullfighting enthusiasts can see local rodeos compete at the Rodeo Masbateño, which the World 66 Travel Guide lists in its top things to do in Masbate.

A highlight of the event is the difficult "figure of eight" competition where the cowboy criss-cross around a group of barrels. "Women participate, too, in heart stopping events like calf wrestling, bull riding, calf lassoing and carambola," the Masbate City Government said on its official website.

Some ranches like the Sese Brahmans Ranch in Balud will even teach you how to crack a bullwhip and ride a horse, as well as other basics of livestock handling, a resident of Masbate said in a press release.

Clear blue skies and white sand beaches

Apart from these unusual attractions, Masbate offers beautiful landscapes and enchanting underwater adventures for exhausted city dwellers.

"Once in Masbate City’s airport, visitors will be amazed with how clear the skies are partly because of the absence of air pollution—no smoke-belching vehicles causing traffic and no industrial smokestacks spewing chemicals. Tourists will also be impressed by how clean Masbate’s coastlines are," the press release said.

Beach lovers can choose from several white sand beaches in the province, from the hat-shaped Sombrero Island in San Pascual to the Puting-Baybay beaches in Claveria. White sand beaches can also be found on Burias Island, Balud, Aroroy, Dimasalang, San Jacinto, and San Miguel. "It is indeed a wonder, if not a blessing, that tourists do not come here in droves," the press release said.

The pristine waters and white sandbar of Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary Tourists can also rent colorful vintas and sailboats. "You should watch out for picture-perfect moments or occasional sightings of dolphins and whales," the World 66 Travel Guide said.

Green sanctuaries

Nature lovers will not run out of things to do in Masbate, beginning with the Pawa Mangrove Ecosystem and Wildlife Park, where dense natural mangroves make the park is an ideal site for bird watching, fishing, and family picnics. Its 1.3-kilometer wooden bridge is also a popular attraction, the press release said.

A colorful underwater scene in Bugsayon marine sanctuary There are quite a few marine sanctuaries in the area, including the Bugsayon Marine Sanctuary in Barangay B. Titong. The sanctuary, home to several corals, fish, and other aquatic species, was ranked by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as the most climate change resistant reef in Central Philippines.

Another climate change resistant reef is the Buntod Reef Sanctuary, a 250-hectare white sandbar with rows of mangroves at its base. "Dive deep into its unique hot and cold waters to see diverse marine life forms including hard and soft corals, coral breams, parrot fish, snappers, goat fish and, sometimes, green sea turtles," the press release said.

At Ticao Island in Monreal and at the Tacdogan Reef, manta rays feed at a 60-hectare shoal of rock formation. Tacdogan is in the municipality of San Jacinto—one of only two areas where the manta rays abound.

"There are also waterfalls in different locations within the province, like the Catandayagan Falls in Danao, San Jacinto, the most beautiful in the province and the only one that falls directly to the sea," the press release said.

For more of the great outdoors, visitors can explore Masbate's caves and see beautiful rock formations, including some that serve as natural diving boards, such as rock formations in Borobangcaso Island in Monreal, Balangingi in Pio V Corpuz, Nagarao in Placer, and Talisay in San Fernando.

Buntod Reef Sanctuary is home to parrot fish, snappers, goat fish and, sometimes, green sea turtles. Sinigang, bulalo, and carabao milk candy

Another way for visitors to discover the province is through its food, the press release said. In Masbate, sinigang gets its sour kick from a unique ingredient called batuan. Other popular dishes are Bulalo ala Masbateño, and a variety of seafood and coconut-based recipes. For dessert, try the delectably sweet Carmelado candies made from carabao’s milk.

For traditional Filipino dishes, One Stop Philippines recommends Amperez Bar and Grill, which also has Thai noodles, satay, and creamy coconut curries. For a romantic meal, they recommend the Floating Restaurant at the Masbate City Harbor. "Traditional acoustic music and twinkling fairy lights provide a romantic ambiance. There is a choice of a la carte grilled steaks, pasta and local Filipino delicacies or good value ‘eat all you can’ buffets," they said.

At Eden, taste local specialties such as sinigang broth with pork and snake beans. "Mellow background music and the sounds of crashing waves guarantees a memorable night of dining under the stars," they said.

With its natural beauty, an assortment of activities, and delicious local cuisine, it is indeed a wonder that tourists have yet to discover Masbate. As the press release said, “Next time you think of finding a place that will let you forget the stressful city living, why not choose to discover the multi-faceted and overflowing natural and man-made wonders that await you in this beautiful province?” –Carmela G. Lapeña/KG, GMA News