By Juan Escandor Jr.
MASBATE CITY---On the 25th year of the Rodeo Festival in this island province in Bicol, Masbate celebrates with color and pageantry of horses, cowboys and cowgirls the revival of the cattle industry in a parade around the city on Tuesday.
Leo Trece Gozum, rodeo director and member of the board of trustees of the Rodeo Masbateño Inc. (RMI), said former governor Emilio Espinosa’s intention to revive in 1993 the cattle industry of the province that dates back to the Spanish Period had been achieved.
“At that time (1993) people in Masbate saw no hope in the cattle industry until we decided to do something for people to enjoy through its promotion with the weeklong rodeo festival. After 25 years a big change happened as we put back Masbate into the map of cattle industry,” Gozum said.
Available cattle industry performance data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the highest commercial production was recorded in Bicol with 33,189 heads as of Jan. 1, 2016. In Bicol, only the province of Masbate produces cattle on commercial scale by ranching.
The top producers of commercial cattle included Cagayan Valley, 27,154 heads; Central Luzon, 20,088 heads; SOCCKSARGEN, 19,784 heads; Northern Mindanao, 16,329 heads; while the combined outputs of other regions at 46,545 heads.
Gozum said the rodeo festival in Masbate had also established a “rodeo community” that includes people in the cattle industry from different parts of the Philippines who joined the Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate (Vroom).
He said the Vroom members are responsible for the administration and management of the activities in the rodeo festival from ensuring the safety of the cattle and participants to acting as facilitators of the games.
Dr. Jordan Absalon, 27, a veterinarian from Nueva Ecija, started as trainee in the rodeo activities a year ago and now has committed himself as among the Vroom members.
“Vroom is like a family in Masbate. It has heightened my enthusiasm and commitment to participate in the rodeo,” Absalon said.
Dr. Ix Binayug, also from Nueva Ecija, said he was a student player in the rodeo for eight years and when he became a licensed veterinarian he thought of joining the professional category but it was hard to find a team.
“Since I want to continue and fulfill my passion to the rodeo, I joined the Vroom. The rodeo itself taught me to care for the large animals. I see the misconception that animals are being hurt in the events but it is not. It is actually showcasing the proper handling of large animals,” Binayug said.
He said what keeps him coming back to the rodeo in Masbate is the ‘family’ itself.
“We are lifting the flag of the cattle industry,” Binayug said.
Absalon and Binayug said the Vroom is a group where they belong.
With some 208 male and female participants from Central and Northern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, the weeklong rodeo festival showcases events that include bull whipping, load carrying relay, cattle wrestling on foot, cattle wrestling from horseback, cattle lassoing from horseback, carambola, casting down, bull riding and Bronco riding.
Of the 208 participants, 55 are females that compete in all the events. Last Wednesday, the cattle drive was reenacted, which is the traditional way of driving cattle to the port.
Tourism Regional Director Benjamin Santiago, a first-time visitor of the rodeo, said the rodeo festival adds excitement in Bicol aside from extreme sports in other spots like the Camsur Watersports Complex that features skateboarding.
Santiago said he talked with Rep. Olga Kho on the plan to put up a ranching academy where interested individuals can learn about work in the ranch, not only riding the horse, but the complete set of work undertaken there.
He said the ranching academy is envisioned to be an informal school which will teach skills in ranch management and systems as an industry.