Rodeo festival unites rival politicians in Masbate

Rhadyz B. Barcia
Rodeo festival unites rival politicians in Masbate
The annual Rodeo Masbateño Festival does not only bring rodeo fans together, it also serves to unite rival political camps on one stage

MASBATE CITY, Philippines – You don’t have to leave the Philippines to watch a rodeo, as the exhibition of skills in handling cattle is being showcased in the country’s rodeo capital, Masbate province.

The annual Rodeo Masbateño Festival does not only bring rodeo fans together, it also serves to unite rival political camps on one stage.

Members of rival political families – the Espinosas, Khos, and Revils – were together on stage and were seen greeting each other with warm smiles at the opening of the 25th Rodeo Masbateño Festival on Tuesday, April 10.

Masbate Governor Antonio Kho said he wants to promote tourism and economic development through the rodeo festival, which the province has been known for.

Kho said Masbate is now easily accessible following the construction of a roll-on-roll-off port in the municipality of Mandaon during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

MASBATE TOURISM. Masbate Governor Antonio Kho, in cowboy gear, keynotes the annual rodeo festival. Photo from the Facebook page of Antonio Kho

He said that in May, a vessel will sail from Mandaon in Masbate to Roxas City in Aklan, to Caticlan, also in Aklan. This will then link  Masbate to world-famous Boracay Island, which is accessible via ferry ride from Roxas City and Caticlan.

“The construction of a RORO port in Mandaon, Masbate, during the time of former President Aquino connects us to world class tourist destination,” Kho said.

Masbate, however, would have to wait  for several months before the tourism spillover happens, as Boracay would be closed to tourists for 6 months starting April 26, due to environmental problems.

‘Way of life’

DISPLAY OF SKILL. A cowboy runs away from a bull at the Rodeo Masbateno Festival. Photo by Rhaydz B. Barcia/Rappler

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

Felimon Abelita, acting chairman of Rodeo Masbate Incorporated, said that the Rodeo Masbateño is a daily ranch practice that was turned into an exhibition and competition to honor the way of life of ranch workers. The festival, which features men and women dressed like cowboys and cowgirls, showcases skills in livestock handling, such as lassoing, wrestling, and bull-riding.  

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 local tourism. 

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

The rodeo used to feature only men but through the years, the competition was opened to women. 

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. –

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