masbate_03

Nine hours in Masbate City

Masbate is known for its ranches and every year, it has its Rodeo Masbateno.

Masbate is known for its ranches and every year, it has its Rodeo Masbateño, the province's top tourist drawer. It has also powerful families who slug bloody jousts come election time.

After five hours at sea and with my senses barraged with stunning seascapes off Ticao, I finally arrived in Masbate City from Pilar, Sorsogon. Its terra firma and its the first time that I’ve been here. What can I expect? Are there old churches or houses that I can visit? Colonial era fortifications and other tourist spots? With just nine hours before I leave for Cebu, I cannot really go beyond the city limits.

The island province is located between Bicol and the Visayan islands of Leyte, Cebu, Negros and Panay. It is nearer to Samar and it’s two main islands are Burias and Ticao with several islets strewn in its seas.

During the Spanish colonial era, it was conveniently in the eastern route of the Manila – Acapulco galleons and had been a supply area just before these trading vessels head out into the Pacific. At the height of the Muslim slave and piratical raidings, Burias and parts of Masbate became a base for these fishers of men where they launched periodic incursions in Bicol and the Visayas.

Finally, the pumpboat that brought me from Pilar, Sorsogon finally docks at the Masbate City pier. Almost five hours after.

Finally, the pumpboat that brought me from Pilar, Sorsogon finally docks at the Masbate City pier. Almost five hours after.

Even during Spanish times, the forests of this province have already been exploited. Among them as source of wood in the construction of the galleons. Logging has continued into modern times. Then as now, it has the same situation as Cebu: heavily deforested with precariously small patches of forests left.

Because of the wide expanse of cleared lands, ranching is widely practiced. Every year, sometime around April, Rodeo Masbateño is the main crowd drawer. There is another aspect that this province is known for: a notoriously dirty political atmosphere that it has one of the bloodiest come election season.

Villa Bayot, an ancestral house of the influential family at the city center.

Villa Bayot, an ancestral house at the city center.

Detail of one of the windows of Villa Bayot. Translucent capiz shells form the square grids.

Detail of sliding windows of Villa Bayot. Translucent capiz shells form the square grids.

I was a bit disappointed, really. While asking at the tourism center at the provincial capitol, I was told that there are only two Spanish colonial era churches left: San Pascual and San Jacinto. Both are in the islands of Burias and Ticao respectively. The woman who attended to me didn’t know of any existing fortifications, even if its in bad condition. I have heard some accounts, though, that there are some caves in the island that have altars made by people who retreated into the interior when the slave raiders came ashore.

As for ancestral houses, there are only a handful of which, Villa Bayot, built in the 1880s is prominently located at the town center near the pier. Unfortunately, when I asked permission to look inside, I was told that the matriarch is not feeling well and can’t receive visitors. Like the old rich in other towns, they are also caretakers of Lenten images that have pilgrims’ following.

Like in many other cities in the country, these stilt houses rising from the sea can be seen near the pier.

Like in many other cities in the country, these stilt houses rising from the sea can be seen near the pier.

Tourist areas like beaches are present but these are beyond the city limits. With no other thing to do or visit, I spent some time sitting at the park. It’s a wide area near the capitol with tall trees and benches underneath. Just breezy and refreshing. Later in the afternoon, I killed time at an internet cafe before heading to the pier.

Already in the passenger boat and ready to sail for Cebu in the evening.

Already in the passenger boat and ready to sail for Cebu in the evening.

It’s already evening and I was aboard the Trans Asia passenger ship. For a tourist accommodation (airconditioned with comfy double decks but crowded, set inside a small area) the ticket is quite steep: just a few pesos short of P900. In a few hours, I will finally be home in Cebu.

Was the trip worth the extended travel time? Of course. As always, its an opportunity to discover new places and enrich one’s experiences.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

29 Comments

  1. dong ho
    October 15, 2008 @ 10:33

    deforestation is quite a sad news. as much as the cities are cutting down trees, i believe that they should also triple or even more the planting of trees.

    the stilt houses are similar to the ones you’ll see in basilan.

  2. kouji haiku
    October 15, 2008 @ 11:00

    that’s a cool shot of the stilt houses. never been to this place.

  3. tutubi
    October 16, 2008 @ 16:31

    the usual “tourism” folks are clueless. and the DOT is really intent on increasing tourist arrivals here. Mabuhay ang mga travel bloggers! 😛

  4. tin-tin
    October 16, 2008 @ 20:21

    sabi nila poorest province daw ang masbate. mukha nga bang ganon?

  5. Sidney
    October 19, 2008 @ 11:55

    Wow…you increased quite a bit your color saturation lately…
    not bad… but for my taste at the edge…

  6. gibb
    October 21, 2008 @ 2:47

    so naa na ka sa cebu karon?

  7. dodong flores
    October 21, 2008 @ 10:37

    Hi, Estan. You explore the place more than I did. I was here in 2003 passing Masbate from Roxas City (Capiz) to Sorsogon. Pumpboat ra sab akong gisakyan.
    I’m planning to visit this place to get better photos and explore the place more intensively.
    Nindot sab kaayo imong mga kuhang photos diri 🙂

  8. Eric
    October 21, 2008 @ 10:38

    Hi Langyaw…nice photo collections…hope you’ll include Siquijor in your next inteneraries….

  9. estan
    October 21, 2008 @ 15:30

    dong, unfortunately, all are lip service.

    kouji, you should visit masbate even for once. i’m also wishing that i can visit their rodeo masbateno next year.

    tutubi, sad but true. its just exasperating that all they know are beaches, beaches and more beaches.

    tin-tin, i really can’t say unless i stayed more time in the area. what you see is not always what you get

    sidney, polarizer and a bright sunny day just gives you those colors (and my usual +15 saturation. hehehe)

    gibb, this week bai magabot ko diha.

    dodong flores, wow, a Roxas City to Sorsogon via Masbate. I’m always intrigued with not so traveled routes

    eric, siquijor is still in my list as I’ve never been to this place before.

    thanx all for the visit.

  10. Cebu-Sugbo kini! | langyaw
    October 25, 2008 @ 23:15

    […] this series for quite a time and so, with the end of the Cuyo Loop and as a fitting segue from my short sojourn in Masbate, I might as well feature my home province as seen from the perspective of a native son. Ahem. That […]

  11. MORE
    April 3, 2009 @ 20:02

    dong langyaw lamat ayo ha kay niagi ka sa masbate u know masbate is my beloved hometown.. and i’ve been here in manila for a years thats why i really missed there..

  12. Drawde
    July 10, 2009 @ 21:40

    TAN,

    SA SIBUYAN ISLAND SA ROMBLON.NAKARATING KA NA?

  13. estan
    July 12, 2009 @ 13:54

    drawde, sibuyan is still a dream 🙂

  14. rochelie
    July 30, 2009 @ 15:32

    ..helLo kUyA!!.thanKs fOr viSitiNg at mY belOved hOmetOwn…ahm fOr thOse whO are asking kuNg poor aNg maSbaTe..maSaSabi kO laNg pOh,.hiNdi..actually,maSbate is ricH iN resources..it is just na minsan di lang nagagamit ng tamA..

    thaks pOh ulit sa aUthOr.!godbless pOh..

  15. rhainalea
    September 26, 2009 @ 6:26

    hello… im from masbate… i agree that politic in our province is so dirty….and poorest… why?? because most of the government officials are corrupt…natural resources are being exploited… youve only seen masbate proper.. if you only have few more hours to spare…i advise you to take a boat and tour the beautiful islands.. ticao and burias…where you can take pictures of the beautiful beaches….people in masbte are warm and friendly.. tourism in masbate really sucks… in my 29 years of existence… i never saw many tourists in our town… maybe because tourism is not really the primary focus of our province.. but i can assure you that we have lots of beautiful beaches to be proud of..

  16. gladys almodiel almodal
    October 6, 2009 @ 21:46

    hi! im from masbate also! father ko taga ticao island sa san jacinto. honestly maganda rin don.sayang di mo naikot boung masbate. marami ka pa makikita do. sa san jacinto meron din old house na inaalagaan talaga.may falls din,like catandayagan falls sobrang ganda don. try to visit and explore again the 3 island… marami ka makikita.

  17. estan
    October 7, 2009 @ 17:36

    gladys, I’m still setting my sights in Masbate and surrounding islands. When time permits, I will be there.

    thanx

  18. Dan
    November 3, 2009 @ 12:56

    I deeply appreciate that you visit Masbate and took time to post this online.Man those pictures are awesome! If all of Masbatenos will just view the place as picturesque as you are the place is really brimming with sunny hopes for a brighter future if and only when politicians will think for the future of the province only and forget their own mantra of a prolong stay in power without even making a difference once they relinquish the same.Good governance and economic investments must be promoted at all times.When there are set of investors that plan to do business in the province can they (politicians) give them lot of incentives rather than extorting money as commissions which prevented those investments to operate. How can you expect economic activities boom in the province with this kind of environment?May the coming 2010 elections be the start of a new governance that will deliver the much long awaited progress people of Masbate deserves !!!

  19. melanie lipaopao
    November 18, 2009 @ 15:44

    yes!!!!!!!! i love mASBATE!!!!kamingaw kona dida….kumusta kamu da tanan mga kababayan ko?

  20. Grace
    November 28, 2009 @ 22:39

    17 years ago i was this place “Masbate”
    I hope to visit there on April 2010
    Miss the place and my family too

  21. shian
    January 11, 2010 @ 5:57

    hello po. thanks po sa pag visit sa mahal kung town.. i wish n sana maging maganda ang road from cataingan to esperanza… thank u po

  22. lakwatsera de primera
    February 5, 2010 @ 11:53

    Masbate is the hometown of my father, it has really received the least amount of visitors among the provinces of Bicol but from the stories of my father, the beaches are really nice, I’m going there this summer and hopefully explore more what it has to offer other than beaches. Uswag Masbate!

  23. chris
    February 12, 2010 @ 7:22

    I’m from the UK, i hope to live in masbate and have a small business with my fiance, is that possible or are the politics going to destroy the opportunity?

  24. estan
    February 12, 2010 @ 9:18

    @chris, it’s always possible. the politics is more with the families there wrestling with their rivals.

  25. RON BULTRON
    March 3, 2010 @ 13:30

    .,.,dimasalang is a nice place visit our town..,

  26. Saturday – 1 Oct 2011 « A Texan's Life in the Philippines
    October 2, 2011 @ 12:47

  27. tsintsin
    October 9, 2011 @ 12:54

    Im from masbate and i just wanna say that masbate city is not the poorest place in the philippines its Masbate province… There’s a big difference between the two. Obviously, as what you guys have seen in the pictures, masbate doesn’t look poor =))) Im a masbatenyo so i can say that we’re not poor as what media tells people.. masbate is indeed a paradise =))) Try to visit our place and i’d volunteer to be your tour guide for free =)

  28. miss gemino
    July 8, 2012 @ 18:43

    Hope masbate will improming the road so we can bring a lot of visitor to all over the world…please remove all the house that not attract the visitor… we need better house and lot to our community to promote our city… more work to come to our city. more clean city… helping each other… promote our city to other country…We need creating job for our people in masbate… need business people to come investment to our city… so creating job for our local community… god bless us all..

  29. The Pawa Mangrove Nature Park footbridge
    October 21, 2013 @ 0:09

    […] is just beside the San Antonio de Padua Cathedral and headed to the jeepney terminal. My second visit to Masbate City, the plan was to visit Pawa Mangrove Nature Park especially for its bamboo footbridge that connects […]

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