The island province of Masbate is located near the center of the Philippines. Known as the "Rodeo Capital of the Philippines," it has the second largest cattle industry in the country. But while Masbate is known for its cows, ranches, and cowboys; the province's green rolling hills, impressive cliffs, waterfalls, and pristine beaches populated with fishes, corals, and various sea creatures make Masbate an exceptional island paradise.
Being an agricultural province, Masbate is blessed with lands perfect for growing crops and grassy hills for raising cattle. Every year, the province celebrates the Masbate Rodeo Festival to promote its cattle industry. In addition to the much-anticipated bull riding, bull whipping and other various competitions, the feast features horse parades, livestock shows, and performances from the locals in their cowboy and cowgirl attires.
Another tourist draw in Masbate is the Buntod Sandbar and Marine Sanctuary. Before it was declared a marine sanctuary, dynamite fishing and sand quarrying were frequent in the area. The 250-hectare protected area was rehabilitated and now serves as sanctuaries for different kinds of fish, corals, as well as the mangroves growing in the area. Snorkeling and diving are some of the popular activities because of its rich and diverse marine life. Boating and kayaking are available too.
Caving enthusiasts will also enjoy Masbate because of its mystical caves. The Bat-ongan Cave is filled with impressive limestone formations, some of them as high as 150 feet. An impressive view of the countryside awaits those who reach the top of the cave.
Philippine Airlines has one flight daily from Manila to Masbate, which usually lasts for one hour and 15 minutes.
Traveling by sea is also another option via 2Go Travel, Montenegro Lines, or Trans Asia. From Manila, sea travel lasts for approximately 22 hours. If you’re coming from Cebu, it’s 15.5 hours. And if you’re from Puerto Princesa, the travel time lasts for almost two days.
How to Get Around
When going around town, the most common transportation you can take is the tricycle. You can also take buses of jeeps if you’re traveling from one town to the other. For those headed for Ticao Island, pump boats are available to take you there.
What to See
Also known as the Cathedral Parish of Saint Anthony of Padua, the Masbate Cathedral stands in the heart of downtown Masbate City and serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Masbate. Founded in 1578 by Spanish missionaries, the church is almost 500 years old.
The Bugui Point Lighthouse is also one of the main landmarks of Masbate. Construction of this Victorian-style structure in the town of Aroroy started in 1893 but it had to be halted when the Philippine Revolution broke out. It was eventually completed in 1902 and used to guide sailors and shipping vessels. The lighthouse is now in a state of neglect but still very picturesque.
The Balud Lighthouse, on the other hand, is still fully operational. Tourists can enjoy this landmark by climbing it and admiring the breathtaking view of the surrounding areas.
The Pawa Mangrove Nature Park is perfect for those who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The mangrove forest occupies about 300 hectares of land, and a boardwalk cuts through the forest where you can walk amongst lush vegetation. Wading birds can also be found in the forest, especially during low tide.
Those who love the sea will surely be delighted with Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary is highlighted by a white sandbar. There are no trees to provide shade—only crystal clear waters with charming marine life. You can go snorkeling, scuba diving, bird watching, or simply lounge by the shores to experience this distinct tropical paradise.
About 14 kilometers south of downtown Masbate is Bituon Beach. It is actually part of a private property but it is open to day trippers for a minimal fee. The beach is lined with rustling greeneries like coconut trees, bamboos, mahogany, and acacia trees.
Ticao Island, one of the three major islands that make up Masbate Province, is located about one hour away by boat from Masbate Island. Fishing is the main source of livelihood for most of the people on the island, so you’ll see numerous dried fish on the shore. Located in the town of Monreal is Catandayagan Falls—one of Ticao’s greatest attractions. Unlike the other falls in the country, Catandayagan Falls is unique since its waters fall straight into the sea.
Another attraction in the northern part of Ticao Island is the Halea Nature Park, which has small beach coves tucked in a sea of greens. It also has a stunning coral reef system that provides habitat for different sea creatures. The Borobangcaso Islet, situated not too far away from Halea Nature Park, is another must-see because of its stunning rock formations.
For those who want something a little bit extreme, the Bat-ongan Cave in Mandaon, Masbate, is home to some spelunking and hiking. Exploring the cave will have you twisting and turning inside narrow tunnels. But once you reach the peak, you’ll feast your eyes on a spectacular view of the surrounding town.
Another interesting destination in Masbate is Snake Island. As the name suggests, the island is a sanctuary for numerous sea snakes. There are guides available on the island so you can explore the place safely.
Burias Island is about two hours away from Masbate by boat. While the journey can be long and tedious, the beauty of the island is certainly worth the wait: it has powdery white sand, especially on the sandbar of Tinalisayan Island and mystical rock formations at Animasola Island.
Events and Festivals
Masbate is also called the “Wild East” because of its ranches. Every April, the province celebrates the Rodeo Masbateño, the only rodeo festival in Asia. The feast is celebrated with numerous exciting activities such as bull riding, cattle lassoing, calf wrestling, beauty pageants, and more. There are also exhibits and bazaars to promote cattle raising, the main source of livelihood of Masbate.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chain
Bigg’s Diner is Bicol region’s answer to McDonald’s and Jollibee. The Masbate branch of this unique fast food chain can be found in Gaisano City Center. It serves pizza, burgers, and pasta like carbonara, one of their best sellers. Their Kookie Monster Cake is also a must-try!
Though popular in Cebu, SuTuKil is also well-known in Masbate. SuTuKil stands for sugba, which means to grill; tula, which means to stew; and kilaw, which means to eat raw like ceviche. This dish is best enjoyed at Castle Kaunan SuTuKil in Barangay Kinamaligan.
Open 24/7, Overtime Tapsishop serves silog meals at any time of the day. Their tapsilog is their most popular dish. There is also Tio Jose Café and Bar, where you can enjoy authentic Masbate tapa. Another restaurant to check out is Ham’s Cup along Ibañez Street, known for its delectable selection of comfort food.
Bars and Clubs
For a round of beers, wines, cocktails, and finger food, check out Zero 8 Resto Bar, a lively spot in Masbate, especially when the night is still young.
Where to Shop
For shopaholics, Masbate City has two huge shopping malls: the Liberty Central Mall, also known as the LCC Mall, and the Gaisano Capital Masbate.
Fare: PHP 7,000.00++
Roundtrip airfares from Manila to Masbate cost roughly around PHP 7,000.00 to as much as PHP 13,000.00, but you can get cheaper flights during promos. Meanwhile, sea travel starts at PHP 500.00, depending on your point of origin.
Tricycle rides around town cost PHP 8.00 to PHP 10.00 per head, while the base fare for a jeep ride is only PHP 7.00. Pump boat rides headed for Ticao Island costs PHP 90.00 to PHP 150.00 per head.
Food: PHP 100.00 to PHP 200.00
Meals in Masbate are pocket friendly: most restaurants offer dishes ranging from PHP 100.00 to PHP 200.00.
Shopping: PHP 20.00 to PHP 300.00
For take home items, key chains and ref magnets are popular souvenir items are very affordable at PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece. Coffee mugs are sold for PHP 80.00 to PHP 100.00, while souvenir shirts range from PHP 180.00 to PHP 300.00, depending on the design.
Accommodations: PHP 800.00 to PHP 6,900.00
Budget accommodations are available for as low as PHP 800.00 per stay. The average rooms at most hotels range from PHP 1,500.00 to PHP 3,000.00 a night.
Activities: PHP 2,000.00++
The entrance fee at Bituon Beach is only PHP 50.00. Meanwhile, a day tour of Ticao Island is around PHP 2,500.00 to PHP 3,000.00. The tour already consists of visits to the Halea Nature Park, Catandayagan Falls, and Borobancaso Islet.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
Tipping is no longer needed in most restaurants, especially if a service charge is already included in the bill. But in case you want to leave something for your server, a small amount of PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 is okay. Consider giving bigger tips for your tour guides, instead.
||ETA in Masbate
||Have breakfast at Overtime Tapsishop.
||Visit the Masbate Cathedral.
||Visit the Pawa Mangrove Natural park.
||Have late lunch at Bigg’s Diner.
||Head over to Bituon Beach for swimming and beach bumming.
||Head back to downtown Masbate and have dinner at Castle Kaunan SuTuKil.
||Have breakfast at the hotel.
||Depart Masbate City for the day tour of Ticao Island.
||Discover Catandayagan Falls, enjoy swimming and snorkeling at Halea Nature Park, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures at the Borobangcaso Islet.
||Depart Ticao Island for Masbate City.
||ETA in Masbate City
||Have dinner at Ham’s Cup.
||Enjoy the night by hanging out at Zero 8 Resto Bar.
||Check out of the hotel and head to the airport.
||Check in at the airport.
||Depart Masbate City for Manila.
||ETA in Manila
The province of Masbate experiences dry season from February to June and rainy season from July to February. Bring light clothing especially if you will be exploring the outdoors a lot. Don’t forget to bring a light jacket, scarf, and an umbrella as well it case it rains.
There are about 20 hospitals available throughout the province in case you need medical assistance. The leading hospitals are found in Masbate City: the Masbate Doctors’ Hospital and the Masbate Provincial Hospital.
There are also a handful of pharmacies and drugstores in the province, though it is still highly recommended that you bring your own medicine, especially if you have certain medical conditions.
In recent years, Masbate has been considered as an election hotspot. The political rivalries in this province are so intense that they sometimes lead to violence. The local government, however, is doing everything it can ensure the safety of both locals and tourists.
While in Masbate, it is advisable to practice vigilance: be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings. If you need assistance, ask your hotel or your tour guides.