Masbate turns into ‘cowboy country’ for rodeo festival
MASBATE CITY—This capital of Masbate province turned into a version of the West on Tuesday as residents, visitors and local officials gathered in the city’s business district, many of them wearing jeans, plaid shirts, leather boots and cowboy hats, for the opening of the 24th Rodeo Masbateño.
With 11 male teams and 11 female teams of student participants and 12 professional teams, the annual festival that celebrates the cattle industry of this island province officially started after the unveiling of a statue of a cowboy mounted on a leaping horse put up in front of the provincial capitol here. A parade of 255 horses kicked off the festival
Judge Manuel Sese, president of Rodeo Masbateño Inc. (RMI), said the number of participants in this year’s events had doubled. Prizes at stake reached a total of P1 million.
The rodeo is a symbol of the province’s success in overcoming the violence that marked local politics several years back, Sese said.
Gov. Antonio Kho cited the rodeo’s role in uniting political rivals who, he said, were all cooperating to ensure the success of the festival.
“Regardless of political color, regardless of political differences caused by political squabbles, we cooperate. That’s why I consider this a very successful event,” he said.
Kho said the rodeo helped boost Masbate’s tourism industry, noting the thousands of visitors coming to the island yearly to witness the event.
“Thank God, people now are asking about the rodeo [rather] than the killings that happened in the past,” said Ma. Lourdes Lilia “Maloli” Espinosa-Supnet, RMI trustee.
Espinosa-Supnet’s father, uncle and elder brother were among the victims of political violence in the province in the 1990s.
According to Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, the festival’s guest, today’s Masbate is a better place compared to the Masbate of her younger days, when she was working as a flight stewardess.
Teo promised that the Department of Tourism would help build more roads and facilities so tourists could reach more destinations and natural attractions in the province.
Immediately after the opening program at the arena, spectators were treated to action-packed events, like cattle wrestling, participated in by teams of cowboys and cowgirls.
According to Leo Gozum, rodeo director, events are related to activities and skills in raising livestock, especially cattle and horses. The rodeo, as a competitive sport, is more popular in the United States and Canada, he said.
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