By Juan Escandor Jr.
MASBATE CITY---Once again, this city turns into a cowboy country with people in their western garbs when the 24th Rodeo Masbateño formally opened with a parade of 255 horses on the streets to the arena Tuesday.
With 11 male teams and 11 female teams of student-participants and 12 professional teams, the yearly festival that celebrates the cattle industry of this island-province kicked off after the unveiling of a statue of a cowboy mounted on a leaping horse in front of the Capitol building here.
Judge Manuel Sese, president of Rodeo Masbateño Inc. (RMI), said this year’s participants has doubled with prizes at stake reaching a total of P1M.
Sese said the rodeo event is also a symbol of celebration of the province veering away from violent tales of the past that hounded local politics.
Masbate Gov. Antonio Kho said the rodeo has tremendous effect on Masbate especially on the tourism side with several thousands of visitors coming here.
Kho said the rodeo has unified political rivals who have all joined hands to ensure the success of the rodeo festival.
“Regardless of political color, regardless of political differences caused by political squabbles, we cooperate that’s why I consider this a very successful event,” he told the Bicol Mail.
Ma. Lourdes Lilia “Maloli” Espinosa-Supnet, RMI trustee, said rodeo is changing the bad impression of Masbate to a good one being dubbed as rodeo capital of the Philippines.
“Thank God, people now are asking about the rodeo rather than the killings that happened in the past,” Espinosa-Supnet said.
Espinosa-Supnet’s father, uncle and elder brother were among the victims of political violence that took place in the 1990s.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, who was the guest of honor at the opening, saw Masbate a much better place now as she reminisced her younger days when she first came here while working as a flight stewardess.
Teo promised more roads to be built by the Department of Tourism to reach more tourist destinations in this island-province.
Other celebrities who came here included Charo Santos Concio, vice president of the ABS-CBN network and Cenon Floresca Jr. of the famous comedy group in television noontime show Eat Bulaga.
Immediately after the program at the arena, the people were treated to heart-thumping events of cowboys and cowgirls wrestling with cows.
Leo Gozum, rodeo director, describes rodeo as competitive sports related to the activities in raising livestock, especially cattle and horses.
Gozum said the term rodeo comes from Spanish word “rodear” which means to surround.
He said the sports is more popular in the United States and Canada.