MASBATE CITY: The Philippines will showcase the unique Rodeo Festival before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in December to promote the country’s livestock industry and tourism in the island province, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo told The Manila Times recently.

Teo, who attended the opening of 34th Rodeo Festival in Masbate, expressed admiration for the action-packed festival that showcases the way of life of the local cowhands here.

“The Rodeo Festival is fantastic and a unique event in the country compared to other festivals. This is something different that could only be seen in the United States but not in Asia. So we will work to showcase the Rodeo Festival to the Asean leaders,” she said.

Teo added that she will ask airline companies, specifically Philippine Airlines, to add more flights to Masbate and lower their airfare to attract more tourists to come to the island province.

The Philippines is hosting the 50th Anniversary of Asean this year wherein all heads of state, foreign ministers and senior officials from the 10 member-states of Asean will be visiting the country.

Maria Nini-Ravanilla, Bicol tourism regional director, said Rodeo Masbateño Festival is the only rodeo event in the entire Asia.

“Rodeo Masbateño is the most unique festival in the country as locals portray the way of life of the local cowboys and compete in Western activities like bull riding and steed wrestling where men and women dress up in cowboy outfits to perform. It honors the way of life of the cowhands or farm workers here while highlighting the best of Masbateño culture,” she noted.

Rodeo Masbateño and Peñafrancia Festival are the only national festivals of Bicol.

“From 2010 to date, the number of tourists isincreasing tremendously as the Rodeo Festival effectively boosts the tourism and livestock industry here and promotes economic growth,” Ravanilla said.

Gov. Antonio Kho also told The Manila Times that Masbate is the country’s number one cattle producer and the Rodeo Festival opens the window for economic growth and tourism in the Bicol Region.

“As a matter of fact, a roll-on-roll-off [Roro] port opened in the municipality of Mandaon that will connect Roxas City [Capiz] to Caticlan in Boraray and vice versa,” he said.

Masbate Mayor Rowena Tuazon said for the last 24 years, Rodeo Masbateño has been the showcase of the province’s identity.

She added that Masbate is blessed with vast pasture land and a robust cattle industry.

“In fact, we have enshrined Masbate as the home of Philippine Rodeo. Since the staging of this festival, it has been our locality’s show window not only for its cattle industry but for the tourism industry as well, which is now gaining the upper hand with Masbate as one of the premier tourism destinations in the country,” Tuazon said.

The Rodeo Festival was organized in 1993 by local ranchers and businessmen, in a bid to put the province of Masbate on the map of Philippine tourism, said Judge Manuel Sese, Rodeo Masbateño Inc. (RMI) president and Rodeo Masbateño overall chairman for five consecutive years.

On September 2, 2002, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared the island province as the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines.