MASBATE CITY: Every year, residents of this city get a chance to horse around in front of local and foreign tourists thanks to the annual Rodeo Masbateno Festival.
During the week-long celebration which ends Saturday, local residents dressed as cowboys and cowgirls get a taste of Texas and show their skills in livestock handling, lassoing, wrestling, and riding cattle.
For ranchers, cowboys, cowhands, stockmen, and traders at the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines, the festival is a much-needed break from their busy activities and helps boost agri-tourism in the city.
“The rodeo boosts the tourism and livestock industry here and greatly helps our economic growth with notable tourists arrivals,” according to Maria Nini Ong Ravanilla, Department of Tourism regional director in Bicol.
The event, now in its 21st year, started as a game and has been going on since 1993 thanks to the efforts of former Gov. Emilio Espinosa Jr. It also features the best cattle and horses in the province.
One of the highlights of the festival is cattle herding where a hundred heads of cattle are released into the streets for local cowboys to bring back to the corral.
At least 32 teams or 300 riders composed of students and professionals, are taking part in the rodeo challenge this year. The participants come from different regions like the Xavier University team from Cagayan de Oro City—the back-to-back champion of the rodeo cattle and non-cattle events.
The rodeo national finals include categories like bull whipping, load carrying, cattle wrestling on foot, cattle wrestling from horseback, cattle lassoing from horseback, “carambola” for two and four persons, casting down, bull riding, cattle horse team penning, street barn dance, and a beef cooking contest for young chefs.
“The purpose of the Rodeo Festival is to showcase around the country our livestock and tourism industry. Although it was politically motivated before since it was run by politicians, we have used it to honor farmers, ranchers and cowhands—our devout partners in the farm,” according to Judge Manuel Sese, Rodeo Masbateno Inc. (RMI) president and Rodeo Masbateno Festival overall chairperson for the past four years.
President Gloria Arroyo declared the island province of Masbate as the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines in 2002.
Today, under the Sese’s leadership, the event hopes to highlight Masbate’s cattle industry and encourage the ranchers’ children to love the farm.