We heard that the Rodeo Masbateño (or Masbate Rodeo Festival), an annual event which showcases Filipinos’ skill in livestock handling, will happen on April 18-22, 2017.
Since I thought that the most exciting activities happen on the last day (Yes! I didn’t do a thorough research… learn from my mistake) plus Lloyd can’t be gone from work too long, we ended up arriving the late afternoon of April 21.
The intensity of excitement of this blog post ended up being on a low note compared to other posts you may find on the net. However, if it’s your first time hearing about this festivity, you should continue reading to have an idea of what happens.
Our first move after settling down in Masbate City is to go to the Rodeo Arena, Masbate Grandstand to secure a photographer pass. We didn’t know that the place was already off-limits to the public at night since everyone is winding down. However, during that time, the gate was open so slightly and there were people roaming around. God really helped us.
It was there we met one of the Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate (VROoM) member who introduced us the National Rodeo Director, Dir. Leo Trece Gozum.
We are very grateful to him as, instead of merely giving us a photography pit access, we received a VROom special pass that will enable us to take better shots of the action.
VROom is actually the technical arm of the Masbate Rodeo Festival organizer, Rodeo Masbateño, Inc. (RMI). They are in charge of judging according to the specific set of rules, timing, and tabulation in rodeo games. Included in their role are the technical aspects of the festival.
Also, we got a tour of the place from the same person who introduced us to Dir. Gozum. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t find him on Facebook so we couldn’t mention him as our expression of gratitude.
Anyway, this particular structure sparked my interest. The upper level of it serves as the viewing area of VIPs. Meanwhile, the lower level is the office of VROom. So if you have any questions or you’re interested in volunteering as well, just drop by there to ask them.
Beer Plaza at Grandstand Arena
For the whole duration of the Masbate Rodeo, the Beer Plaza is set up. It serves as an avenue for relaxation and socialization of the cowboys and festival goers. The site is also good for reuniting with old acquaintances as well as meeting new friends.
The rate of the entrance fee per person depends on the date of visit. The closer the week-long celebration ends, the pricier the entrance fee gets. Thus, during our visit, the rate was at PHP 100 (or USD 2) per person that is otherwise free at the start of the week.
Well, it’s worth it as there are special performances to entertain attendees as they drink beer.
The lively atmosphere can also be enjoyed by families. Grilled meat and seafood are available for dinner. Just be wary that almost everyone is drinking alcohol there so please guide your children accordingly.
World Trade Fair
Making the Masbate Rodeo Festival more exciting is the trade fair where various agricultural, veterinary, and locally produced products are showcased and sold.
Rodeo merchandise such as “I love Masbate” shirts are being sold as well. It is here that we bought our matching cowboy hats that cost PHP 120 (or USD 2.4) each. So don’t miss checking out the goods for sale.
Dressing like a Cowboy/ Cowgirl
Partaking in Masbate Rodeo Festival means there are excuses to wear cowboy or Woody-inspired (think Toy Story) outfits.
You got a friend in Masbateños. No one there will judge you for wearing gingham shirts, boots, and a high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat. Just note that each article of clothing actually has a functional purpose in the ranch life.
Wearing such enables us to live our childhood dream of being a cowboy even for just a short amount of time. It also shows support to the rodeo activities.
Masbate Rodeo National Finals
Masbate Rodeo National Finals held at the Rodeo Arena is the highlight of the Masbate Rodeo Festival. It is where the toughness, grit, and animal handling skills of both professional and student cowboys and cowgirls are displayed over various games.
Cowboys and cowgirls competing on the final day of the National Rodeo Finals are from the student category. It’s still a sight to behold as they give their best to represent their college or university that offers agricultural courses.
The various games we witnessed them in action are the following:
Student carambola involves 2-3 teams consisting of four people each. The number of cows released in the arena depends on the number of teams competing. Cowboys and cowgirls also only compete against the same gender.
The first team that grabs the neck of the cow “owns” it. This means it can no longer be wrestled with to be brought down and tied by the other team/s.
The objective of the game is definitely to be able to capture the cow using bare hands with the best time. So it’s deemed that they’ve successfully caught the cow when they’ve tied its feet together and the cow can’t rise up to ten seconds.
This game has a team of four cowboys/ cowgirls lassoing the cow using their lariats. Some casting down games, I think those that involve professionals, use a horse. Otherwise, for students, they’re on foot.
I’m not sure if they’re supposed to lasso it around the neck, but what I’m sure of is that they can only cast down the cattle when it’s standing on its four legs.
This is the game where we can’t take off our eyes even for just a few seconds.
The team of the participating cowboy ties the bull rope and flank strap inside the bucking chute. It has to be done properly for the bull to be riled up that he jumps, kicks and flails as he tries to get his rider off his back.
Once the bull is released, the cowboy has to remain aboard his bull by balancing himself and using only one of his hands to grasp the bull for eight seconds to qualify
Those who qualify are scored accordingly on how they rode and managed the bull. We can’t help but cheer for the cowboy rider when he stays long atop the bull.
Load Carrying Relay
There is also a game that doesn’t involve any animal – the load carrying event. The first member carries a sack of sand to a designated point in the area. Afterward, the first member has to pass the cowboy hat he/she is wearing so that the next member can wear it too and carry on to carrying the sand. This goes on until all the sacks of sand have been carried.
The first team to carry all the sacks of sand, of course, wins.
According to the hosts of the event, cowboys/ cowgirls should carry the load on their shoulder and not carry it like a baby. Not only is it a more efficient use of energy but it also prevents the sack from bursting. In actual ranch life, proper sack handling is important as to prevent wastage of feed and fertilizers.
In actual ranch life, proper sack carrying is important as to prevent wastage of feed and fertilizers.
Musings of a First Time Rodeo Spectator
Some may feel conflicted in watching the Masbate Rodeo National Finals because animals are used for entertainment and they may get hurt in the process. We respect your feelings on this subject.
We just want to share with you why we never regretted watching it and why we’re keen on supporting such festivity.
First, there is certainly an apparent danger to participants who enter the arena. But knowing that these are what they do in their day to day jobs made us feel assured that nothing morbid will happen. Add to that the fact that the medical staff both from Red Cross Masbate Chapter and Masbate Provincial Hospital are always on standby just in case something bad happens. Thankfully, nothing too serious happened to participants as we watched. Some of them did end up lying on the ground after a game but it’s just because of fatigue and frustration.
Next, the acts done to the livestock except for bull riding are truly necessary actions for providing medical treatment or branding them. So there is no intentional harm just to compel them to perform.
Animal cruelty usually inflict serious injuries or casualties to animals. However, we saw none of the animals in the Masbate rodeo arena leaving like that. There are also veterinarians on standby in case something dire happens to them.
Finally, it’s true that the rodeo games are entertaining to watch especially with the chases that will make you gasp for air. We just have to remind ourselves that, in essence, it’s a showcase of the skills of the riders and herders. In addition, for the younger generation, it’s not only to hone their talent but also to encourage them to continue the legacy of exceptional cowboys and cowgirls. I think this is very much important as the younger ones can get distracted with technology which may discourage them from continuing the profession.
We wouldn’t want for Masbate’s main source of livelihood to disapper and for us to run out of cattle supply as well as a source of organic beef, right?
If you decide to watch as well, below are what you need to prepare and bring to make watching Masbate Rodeo National Finals a more enjoyable experience:
- Small towels to wipe your sweat. It can get pretty hot at the bleachers with the number of people in the audience. There are also some instances you’ll run as you participate in some of the games geared toward the audience.
- Sunglasses to protect your eyes especially for those who are sensitive to light.
- Water for rehydration.
- Small garbage bag for accumulated clutter.
With all that’s said, we can’t wait to hear the loud blaring of “If you wanna ride… Don΄t ride the white horse” and applaud each cowboy/cowgirl again. Til’ our next Masbate rodeo!