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Catandayagan Falls in Ticao island, Masbate province. (Inset) A manta ray swims in the waters of Ticao. (Photos: Department of Tourism in Region 5 [Bicol]; Alex Duval)

Masbate: Beautiful beaches, wondrous waters

Masbate may be best known as the Philippines’ rodeo capital, thanks to its annual Rodeo Masbateño Festival, but this island-province in the Visayas offers more than just strong cowboys, tough cowgirls, and cattle to be tamed for entertainment. It also offers tourists, particularly nature lovers, several splendid destinations that may lead them to think that they’re on the edge of some unexplored territory. 

One of these is the 251-hectare Buntod Sandbar and Reef Marine Sanctuary, just a few minutes’ ride from Masbate City. Recognized as the best marine sanctuary by the Marine Protected Area Awards and Recognition (Para El MAR), Buntod boasts of a 200-meter stretch of white sand and mangrove forest.

Another is Balud town’s Palani Beach, which brings to mind Boracay before it became commercialized. With only a handful of resorts there, vacationers can enjoy playing beach ball games, go bamboo rafting, row a dug-out canoe, or rest on the cabanas and gaze at the sunset.

On the way to that beach is Fazenda de Esperanza in Milagros town, an agricultural retreat and halfway house for victims of substance abuse who are preparing for reintegration into society. Meaning “farms of hope” in Spanish, this place features views of undulating mountain ranges that recall images of the Alps. While there, visitors are encouraged to try its flavored cow’s milk or take home organic produce and souvenirs to help fund the institution.

At a secluded point in Dimasalang town is Porta Vega, which offers an unparalleled view of the setting sun and the rising moon in a mile-long beach blessed with fine sand.

If you can’t get enough of the sea and sand, then hie off to nearby Ticao Island, whose main attraction is postcard-pretty Catandayagan Falls, which starts from a cliff and ends in the sea.

Burubangcaso Islet boasts of talcum-like sand, crystal-clear waters and a massive rock. It is part of a chain of islands that you can almost call your own, because it is so secluded.

Found in Ticao’s northern part is Halea Island Retreat and Nature Park on San Miguel island, which is teeming with marine life. Named after a character in Bicol folklore, this sanctuary is beautifully framed by limestone rocks and patches of shores.

On the other side of Ticao is the Manta Bowl of Ticao Pass, which is home to manta rays and where whale sharks occasionally stray into from their feeding grounds in Donsol town, Sorsogon province. Go scuba diving at the Ticao Island Resort and explore the world of these amazing underwater creatures.

And last, but not the least, there’s Burias Island, which is generally regarded as Masbate’s top tourist attraction, thanks to the surprises it has in store for visitors. Among these is the rock island of Animasola, which features a powdery beach and a crystalline pool.

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