If you ask a Filipino which provinces foreign travelers should visit during their stay in the Philippines, there is huge likelihood that the province of Masbate will not be included in his travel list, not even close.
Don’t get me wrong, Masbate has its own charm and some spots hidden deep inside the province are just magical spots on the face of the Earth.
But most Filipinos, especially those who haven’t explored much of the Philippine countryside rely mostly on what they see on magazines, brochures and travel tours. And chances are, the places they will recommend are the most commercial places, already explored and re-explored by both local and foreign travelers.
While increase in tourist traffic is definitely welcome, too much commercialization of the province is just not an option for the locals living in this wonderful province, as it threatens to take away the natural charm of the place and its people.
Surrounded by the Burias and Ticao Pass on the North, the San Bernardino Strait on the East, the Visayan Seas on the South, and the Sibuyan Sea on the West, Masbate is blessed with bountiful marine resources, as well as stretches of beaches and coral reefs.
And while it is not the most popular place to be in the Philippines, not even in the Bicol region, Masbate boasts of several destinations that would surely make any Filipino proud.
Mangrove Park and Marine Sanctuaries
One sure way to enjoy your experience of the province is to visit the 21-hectare Pawa Mangrove Ecosystem and Wildlife Park, which is known for its 300-hectare dense natural mangroves and is a perfect site for bird watching, fishing and family picnic. It is also popular for its 1.3-kilometer boardwalk or wooden bridge that makes a trek to the park more enjoyable.
The 50-hectare Bugsayon Marine Sanctuary in Barangay B. Titong, Masbate City is also a must see for ecotourists. One will see colorful and live corals and different fishes and other aquatic species upon snorkeling or scuba diving in Bugsayon. The reef was even ranked by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as the topmost resilient to climate change in Central Philippines.
Head to the pier and ride a motorboat to another marine sanctuary – the Buntod Reef Sanctuary that is made distinct by a 250-hectare white sandbar between the seawaters of Barangay Nursery and Barangay Tugbo also in Masbate City. You will marvel at its white sand, pristine waters, and rows of mangroves at the sandbar’s base. Dive deep into its unique hot and cold waters to see diverse marine life forms including hard and soft corals, coral breams, parrot fish, snappers, goat fish and, sometimes, green sea turtles.
Buntod is ranked second after Bugsayon as one of the most climate change resistant reefs in this side of the archipelago, making Masbate City a model place as far as preserving rich marine ecosystems is concerned.
Thriving marine ecosystems can also be found in Ticao Island and Monreal. There is also the Tacdogan Reef in the municipality of San Jacinto – one of only two areas where the manta rays abound. A 60-hectare shoal of rock formation, the area is where these mantas come to feed.
They may not be as popular as Boracay or Palawan but Masbate also has countless white sand beaches.
Some of the province’s white sand beaches include the Sombrero Island and Tinalisayan beach in San Pascual, Burias Island, the Palani Beach in Balud, the San Isidro and the Puting-Baybay beaches in Claveria, the Aroroy and the Colara beaches in Aroroy, the Magcaraguit Beach in Dimasalang, the Alta Mar beach in San Jacinto, and the Halea beach in San Miguel Island, and Manokmanok Island in Esperanza. .
Masbate as the Cattle Capital
Thanks to its hilly landscape, Masbate offers perfect pasturelands for cattle and other livestock. In fact, Masbate is called the Cattle Capital of the Philippines because its ranches supply a huge part of the country’s cattle supply for several decades now.
And for travelers looking for a different adventure, perhaps the rodeo culture in Masbate can give you a new high.
Expansive ranches scattered all over the province including the Sese Brahmans Ranch in the municipality of Balud, offer students and anyone who’s in to the rodeo culture, the basics of livestock handling including cracking the bullwhip and horseback riding.
Caves and Waterfalls
If you are a spelunking or cave sight-seeing aficionado, then Masbate is also for you.
There are also the beautiful rock formations in Animasola Island in Claveria, the Lahong Cave in San Fernando, the Batuan Cave in Ticao, the Gato Cave in Aroroy, the Bat Ongan cave in Mandaon and the Lobster cave in Jamorawon Island. Rock formations that serve as natural diving boards can be found in Borobangcaso Island in Monreal, Balangingi in Pio V Corpuz, Nagarao in Placer, and Talisay in San Fernando.
There are also waterfalls in different locations within the province like the Catandayagan Falls in Danao, San Jacinto, the most beautiful in the province and the only one that falls directly to the sea.
Masbate and the Galleon trade
History books offer very little detail about the history of Masbate but among locals, the deep history and heritage is not lost.
Masbate is the only province in the country that celebrates the Galleon Festival in honor of the Spaniards who brought Christianity in the Philippines. Note that historians have traced the start of the Christianization of the Bicol Region in Masbate when the Spaniards came in 1569.
By then, local settlements are already present and the people of Masbate were already engaged in trading with China and India.
The province was also crucial for the Galleon trade as the town of Mobo contributed premium lumber for the building of galleons.
Masbate is just one of the many unassuming, laid-back provinces in the Philippines. To any outside, t is not as flashy as compared to the more industrialized and commercialized provinces in the country. But upon closer inspection, this province located right at the heart of the Philippine archipelago is just a natural wonder, full of surprisingly amazing destinations just waiting to be explored.