MASBATE CITY, April 2 (PNA) -– It’s fiesta time for Masbate, Bicol’s island of cowboys and cowgirls.
On Monday, the island province, known for its vast “ranchos” and hundreds of “rancheros,” signaled the opening of the yearly Rodeo Festival--a stunning celebration featuring the island’s brand of tourism promotion that over years has made Masbate internationally known as the Rodeo Capital of Asia.
The day saw the grand parade of over 200 horses with cowboys and cowgirls in elaborate costumes on top, which went around the city’s thoroughfares to mark the soaring of Rodeo Masbateño to new heights equivalent to the unprecedented gains the province has realized in terms of economic and tourism boom.
Through the Rodeo, the island province--located at the center of the Philippine archipelago and noted as one of the country’s leading producers of cattle--has become a yearly destination for rodeo games enthusiasts from all over the world.
This is notwithstanding its murky history of political violence that has portrayed the province as the “murder capital of Bicol.”
After the parade and opening ceremonies held at the sprawling Rodeo Arena here and attended by about 100,000 Masbateños--joined by guests, tourists, visitors rodeo games performers from different parts of the country and abroad--horseback rides were offered to tourists.
A Rodeo Saloon, an Old West-inspired dining and drinking place for cowboys and cowgirls, was opened as another attraction.
Before the end of the day, visitors with discriminating taste for food were treated to a cooking contest featuring various menus of beef.
Hotels, restaurants, beach resorts, entertainment houses and all other tourist facilities around the city and nearby towns are all dressed up to their best.
The most attractive and distinct of these, according to lawyer Felimon Abelita III, the Rodeo Masbateño Incorporated (RMI) head, will receive prizes.
Activities lined up for the annual festival include horse parade, calesa ride, street barn dancing, livestock show, trade fair, beer plaza, cattle drive and herding and ranch tour, among others.
The first nine days will feature only initial tourist events as the thrill and excitement will come starting on April 9 to run until the last day of the festival on the 15th, Abelita said.
These last five days, he said, will feature rodeo games where hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls are to compete in this year’s Rodeo National Finals.
In the games, local cowboys will compete with rodeo champions from other parts of the country and from Australia and the United States, Abelita said.
Among the rodeo events involved are lassoing, cattle wrestling and carambola.
“We are fully energized to make the 2013 Rodeo Festival more exciting. We aim to satisfy the local and foreign tourists who have been looking forward to participating in Rodeo National Finals, an adrenaline-filled event,” Abelita said.
On the soft launch of the festival last January, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed by the RMI, city government headed by Mayor Socrates Tuason, provincial government under Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and various private sponsors for joint efforts in making the festival successful.
A non-profit organization, RMI has been holding the rodeo since 1993 with the primary goals of promoting the continuous and sustained growth of the cattle industry in the province of Masbate as well as promote and develop tourism-related businesses in the province.
In the opening ceremonies, Lanete said Rodeo Masbateño Festival is the key tourism activity that is different from other festivals in Bicol and the whole country.
“We take pride in having this distinct activity that has been changing the image of our province from bad to good and the local economy from poorest to less poor,” she said.
Apart from the rodeo, tourists have also been coming over to the province for its several other attractions, especially in eco-tourism, Lanete said. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB