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Masbate Rodeo Festival reels off after 3-year lull

By Rhaydz B. Barcia

MASBATE CITY --- This capital city of Masbate province has turned into a version of the West on Tuesday as residents, visitors and local officials garbed with jeans, plaid shirts, leather boots, and cowboy hats gathered in the city’s business district for the opening of the 27th Rodeo Masbateño, a crowd drawer that has been discontinued for three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The annual Rodeo Masbateño Festival does not only bring rodeo fans together. It brings cowboy players across the Philippines to showcase their expertise in handling wayward cattle, an experience that gives everyone in this island including opposing political camps to bond even for just a brief period of time.

For nearly three decades now, Masbate, the Philippines’ cattle capital, has showcased the way of life of local cowboys and cowgirls through the rodeo event.

You don’t have to go to Canada, the United States or leave the Philippines to watch a rodeo as the exhibition of skills in handling cattle is being showcased here, the country’s rodeo capital.

Events are related to activities and skills in raising livestock, especially cattle and horses. The rodeo, as a competitive sport, is popular in the United States and Canada.

Rodeo Masbateño is a daily ranch practice that turned into an exhibition and competition to honor the way of life of ranch workers.

Then Masbate Governor Emilio Espinosa Jr initiated the rodeo festival in 1993, with the support of local ranchers and businessmen, to put Masbate on the map and to boost the local tourism industry.

On September 2, 2002, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Masbate as the “Rodeo Capital of the Philippines.”

The festival, which features men and women dressed like cowboys and cowgirls, showcases skills in livestock handling i.e. lassoing, wrestling, and bull-riding.

The rodeo used to feature only men but through the years the competition began to admit women as contenders.

The rodeo national finals included bull whipping, load carrying, cattle wrestling on foot, cattle wrestling from horseback, cattle lassoing from horseback, “carambola” for two and 4 persons, casting down, bull riding, and cattle horse team penning.

The rodeo also featured a street barn dance, and a beef cooking contest for young chefs on the sidelines of the rodeo.

The annual festival that celebrates the cattle industry of this island province officially started after the unveiling of a statue of a cowboy mounted on a leaping horse put up in front of the provincial capitol here.

A parade of hundreds of horses from various ranches kicked off the colorful festival activities.

A COWBOY matches up his skills with this bull, an event that highlights the opening of 2023 weeklong Rodeo Masbateño Festival.

The rodeo is a symbol of the province’s success in overcoming the violence that marked local politics several years back, former Rodeo Masbateño Inc. President Judge Manuel Sese said.

Masbate Gov. Antonio Kho cited the rodeo’s role in uniting political rivals who, he said, were all cooperating to ensure the success of the festival.

Kho said that the Rodeo Festival opens again after three years of hiatus following the occurrence of Covid- 19.

He said that regardless of political color, regardless of political differences caused by political squabbles, politicians work together and cooperate for Rodeo. “That is why I consider Rodeo a very successful event,” he said.

Kho said the rodeo helped boost Masbate’s tourism industry, considering the thousands of visitors coming into the island every year to witness the event.

Immediately after the opening program at the arena on Tuesday, spectators from all walks of life were treated to action-packed events, like cattle wrestling, bull riding, carambola and lassoing participated in by teams of cowboys and cowgirls from different regions across the country.

Herbie Aguas, DOT Bicol regional director, told Bicol Mail that Rodeo Festival is next to Peñafrancia Festival as the most popular event in the region and throughout the country.

The Rodeo competition will last until April 16, with various exciting daily events including the famous cattle drive and the juego de toro, street barn dance and showdown including a beef cooking contest.

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