Allow me and Arnie (http://www.iambuchok.com/) to take you to the beautiful yet underrated province of Masbate in just seven questions.
Why go to Masbate?
[Brennan] There’s more to the province of Masbate than just being the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines. It is undoubtedly that but it is also home to spectacular dive sites, secluded white sand beaches and a majestic waterfall that plunges straight to the sea.
Go then to Masbate if you also want to experience a place that is as interesting as its location in the Philippines. It is smacked in the middle of it all, with Sorsogon, and the islands of Samar, Leyte, Biliran, Cebu, Panay and Romblon as neighbors. As a result, the dialect spoken in these parts is a mix of Bicolano, Filipino, Waray, Cebuano and Hiligaynon. What you get is a mesmerizing fusion of cuisine and culture.
[Arnie] I would like to believe that Masbate is not yet fully recognized by foreign or even local tourists alike. Before I started blogging I’ve been an avid reader of different travel sites featuring different provinces but Masbate is just too remote to be recommended in traveling.
Masbate has a lot of things to offer depending on your preference. If you are into beach bumming and diving, the islands of Ticao and Burias will surely give you the experience of flying with oceanic manta bowls and whale sharks (butanding) under the sea.
If you are into outdoor activities, Masbate does not have the highest mountains but it has rolling hills that are enough to give you the best view of the city. Located in Umabay, Mt. Uac is the highest mountain, standing at 576 meters above sea level.
Aside from the Masbate Rodeo Festival, we have this Lapay Bantigue Festival happening during the last week of September. Following this festival is the commemoration of Masbate City’s founding anniversary.
Go ahead and experience yourself the heart of isles. Masbate is so silent yet it has the paradise that would surely give you an unforgettable experience. I would like to think that there are more beautiful places around Masbate’s islands and hope we have a traveler that would have plenty of time exploring the entire province.
How do you get there and how do you get around?
[Arnie] The province is very accessible, either by air or by land. PAL Express have daily trips to Masbate airport; it only takes about an hour. This is the only carrier that flies to and from the city. Buses on the other hand have daily trips in Pasay and Cubao terminal going to Dalahican in Lucena, Quezon. The trip will take 3 – 4 hours. Then you can take RORO vessel via Montenegro Lines straight to Masbate port. They have daily trips from Lucena to Masbate (vv). Another option is via Bicol, buses travel all the way to Pilar in Sorsogon then you can take pump boats going to Masbate port.
There are vans and jeeps that will bring you in and out of the city. A scheduled bus trip is your choice that will bring you to the southernmost part of the province. The tricycle is the main mode of transportation around the city.
[Brennan] Trans-Asia has regular Cebu-Masbate (vv) trips. For updated schedules and fares please visit their website. Other than this, you’ve outlined everything already Arnie. Thanks! 🙂
What can you do there?
[Brennan] When you are in Masbate City, visit Villa Bayot, a heritage house near the port that keeps the revered image of the Santo Entiero. There’s also the multi-awarded Buntod Sandbar and Marine Sanctuary where you can snorkel and dive to your heart’s content. Plan your adventures there with the SAMAPUSI (Samahang Mangingisda ng Puro-Sinalikway Inc) President, Mr. Jojo Soria (+639074542004).
Hire a trike that would take you to Fazenda da Esperança, a scenic rehabilitation facility in Milagros. Don’t leave the sprawling property without trying their fresh milk. Along the way you could stop by some private ranches, which Masbate is famous for. All these can be had in the mainland. But if you have a few days to spare, head next to the islands of Ticao and Burias.
[Arnie] If you really wish to escape the topsy-turvy world in the city and just clinch with nature, then consider Ticao and Burias islands. Halea Nature Park at Monreal, Ticao is now getting renowned across internet sites. Sombrero Island in Burias is another thing to consider. It is a quaint, hat-shaped islet at the middle of Burias Pass.
Masbate’s rodeo festivities happen in April. But if you wish to experience the ranch life even if it’s not the Rodeo month, then you can check the Sese Brahmans Ranch. They accommodate overnight stay.
With regards to outdoor activity, we have the Bat-ongan Cave located in Mandaon. Similar to Sagada’s Sumaging Cave, it is believed that this cave was also used as a burial ground. Around the cave, you can hike so you’ll have the view a waterfall.
Of course, you shouldn’t miss the face of Masbate. You can have a walking tour around the city’s downtown. Visit also the ports if you wish to have photos of big ships, old houses and the Saint Anthony of Padua Cathedral.
Where can you spend the night?
[Arnie] There’s enough number of accommodation that you can find in Masbate City. There’s GV Hotel, Ranchers Hotel, Legacy Suite Hotel and many more. But if you are on a budget you can consider Sampaguita Tourist Inn which Is located at the center of the city. Their rates start at Php250. 7AR Resort and Hotel has a good ambience and is near the coastal area.
[Brennan] My friends and I stayed at Rendezvous Resort (+639053272778). It is owned and managed by Jose Cokie Medina, who inadvertently became our gracious local tourism officer before and during the trip. Their Php800 room is comfortable enough to fit three persons. It is located in Barangay Nursery and has wonderful views of the sea and Ticao Island.
What food stops should you not miss?
[Brennan] Try the Masbateño version of the bulalo at Alben’s Food House in Barangay Tara. The locals frequent this eatery, along with Minlan, a Chinese restaurant along Osmeña St. (+563336886). The latter has Php75 value meals which are delicious and very filling. If you are craving for steak there’s Tio Jose in Ibañez St.
[Arnie] When I recently visited there, I’m glad to see that Masbate City is now in progress. They now have famous fast food restaurants that you can find anywhere else in Metro Manila. But of course when visiting a province you really wish to eat authentic food. Castle Kaunan SUTUKIL (Sugba, Tula, Kilaw) is a food a stop you shouldn’t miss. You can really taste the fresh fish being grilled or in kinilaw style.
What pasalubong options would you recommend?
[Arnie] Honestly I was really thinking of what could be Masbate’s very own pasalubong. Being part of Bicolandia, Pili is the top choice but then it is widely known as a product of the region. Then my cousin who toured me around the city told me that Carmelado could be considered as Masbate’s own. It is a milk candy traditionally made of Carabao’s milk mixed with sugar.
[Brennan] Hey Arnie. we also bought packs of Carmelado! These sweet treats, similar perhaps to your pastillas de leche, are sold in Php100 packs at the port area.
If you could visit the province again, what stops/adventures would you like crossed off from your Masbate bucketlist?
[Brennan] I have two on my list – witness the Rodeo Festival and settle an unfinished business with Catandayagan Falls in Ticao. I’d like to visit this unique waterfall during the summer months where the seas are generally calm.
[Arnie] Considered to be the newest and comparable to Boracay’s white sand beaches, the Porta Vega Beach Resort is located in Dimasalang. You will really enjoy the view because of the cool water and different rock formations.
Although Arnie Monacillo now lives in Metro Manila, this intrepid traveler, mountaineer, photographer was born in Masbate. He started started blogging in August 2012.
Even if he has gone to many places, both (local and overseas), Arnie, will always be a ‘wandering kid’ at heart.
Catch his journeys at his blog, The Kid Wanderer.