Wild Wild East: Masbate’s Rodeo Festival


Phillip Kimpo Jr.
Phillip Kimpo Jr. | Mar 27, 2014

Masbate province in the Philippines’ eastern region of Bicol is home to rancheros packing with panache and lays claim to having Asia’s only rodeo festivities.


Photo courtesy of Soccii Nenotchka Rejuso Tuason from the “It’s More Fun in Masbate” FB page.

The Rodeo Masbateño began in the early nineties to perk up the province amid a decline in cattle population, the main source of livelihood. Through the two decades since its inception, the event has lassoed tourists from all over the country.


Photo courtesy of Joana Valencia from the “It’s More Fun in Masbate” FB page.

The festival has stamped Masbate’s identity as the cattle center of the Philippines, and Masbate City’s fame as the rodeo capital. The province’s expanses of gently rolling hills are perfect for cattle ranching, and Masbateños have been honed by the decades to be exceptional riders and herders.


Photo courtesy of Alex Sallan from the “It’s More Fun in Masbate” FB page.

A typical Rodeo Masbateño festival kicks off with a grand horse parade, the longest of its kind staged in the country and probably in the whole of Asia. Such a parade would see hundreds of horses ridden by professionals and students alike strut down the city streets.

When we say professional, we mean world-class: homegrown talents have participated in international rodeo festivals such as in Las Vegas.


Photo courtesy of Joana Valencia from the “It’s More Fun in Masbate” FB page.

There’s a cattle drive, which demonstrates the traditional way of leading a herd, as thirty to fifty cattle heads are driven in a three-kilometer stretch. Cowboys and cowgirls also dance all the way from the city streets to the Rodeo Grand Arena, where they hold a barn dance showdown.


Photo courtesy of Nelson P. Salting from the “It’s More Fun in Masbate” FB page.

Speaking of which, the Rodeo Grand Arena is the Philippines’ only permanent and fixed structure built solely for rodeo. It packs the full arsenal for days’ worth of yee-haws: a grandstand, rodeo corral, stockyard, rodeo chute, bull riding chute, roping chute, plus the lights for the night rodeo.


Photo courtesy of Nelson P. Salting from the “It’s More Fun in Masbate” FB page.

The Rodeo Arena plays host to the festival’s highlight—the Rodeo National Finals, which in 2013 featured around 400 cowboys and cowgirls from all over the archipelago. These toughies competed in events such as bull riding, bull whipping, cattle lassoing from horseback, and cattle wrestling on foot.


Masbate’s cowboys represent their province during the Daragang Magayon Festival 2014.

Those looking for the real country life experience can go on ranch tours, where guests can mount horses, milk cows, and witness up close and personal cattle branding and bull whipping.


Charie Villa and friends enjoying Masbate’s fresh milk.

Now, no Wild Wild East will be complete without some booze to drink down the aches and fatigue of the hectic day. The Beer Plaza serves as heaven for the cowboys and cowgirls looking for a place to chill out in the midst of free-flowing beer and good ol’ country music.


Masbate’s cowgirls watch their boys perform during the Daragang Magayon Festival 2014.

This year’s rodeo fest will be held for two weeks on March 30 – Apri 13, 2014. If you’re tight with your free time, April 8-9 will be perfect, as it’s packed with the National Rodeo Finals, the cattle drive, and a beef-cooking contest, among others.

Of the dozens of Philippine festivals vying for attention, we can say that Masbate’s spectacle is a truly distinctive celebration. Strap up those boots and go giddiyap!

[Text adapted from the original version, written by the same author, which appeared in the now-defunct Side Trip travel magazine, March-April 2013 issue.]


Photo courtesy of Dan Amaranto from the “It’s More Fun in Masbate” FB page.

How to Get There:

By air, Masbate City is served by the Moises R. Espinosa Airport found within the city proper. Planes from Manila usually take more or less an hour to reach the province.

By sea, Masbate is a good 18 hours from the Port of Manila. By land, buses from Manila travel to the Bicol provinces of Albay and Sorsogon, where RORO ships or fastcraft can take you to Masbate within three hours.


Who to Contact:

City Tourism Office: Tel Nos. (056) 333-5608 / 333-5844

Office of the Governor, Provincial Capitol: Tel. Nos. (056) 333-6937 / 582-0320

It’s More Fun in Masbate: Facebook page


Watch a video of the Rodeo Masbateño:

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