Island Hopping and Seafood Feasting Our Way Through Masbate


After getting a glimpse of the province last year when I visited Ticao Island for a couple of days, I immediately regarded Masbate as vastly underrated despite its central geographical location as gateway to Luzon and Visayas. That brief tryst had me making a vow of returning soon. As good fortunes had it, I was able to go back recently for a more extensive journey that took me to the mainland of Masbate, Burias Island and at Ticao once again.

Monina Sanchez
Animasola Island is formed like a fortress with a triangular sandbar

Over the course of 11 days, we traversed this province known for its rodeo tradition and discovered its many other gems. Beautiful islands, picturesque countryside, expansive sandbars, charming small towns, crystal clear waters wowed us at every stop, while sumptuous local cuisine, a blend of fresh seafood and juicy livestock meats, delighted our taste buds.

Masbate Mainland

To emphasize Masbate’s connectivity to other islands, we arrived and departed the province not on a plane, but on a ferry and passenger boat. Following a brief journalistic coverage of the Capiztahan event in Roxas City, we sailed from Culasi Port in Roxas to reach Balud, Masbate in three hours.

Marla Espino
This century old Jintotolo Lighthouse is surrounded by spectacular views

Named from the almost extinct Pink-bellied imperial pigeon, Balud is located on the southwestern tip of Masbate. One of its two barangays, a small island called Jintotolo became our first stop.

Koryn Iledan
If Capiz is known as the "Seafood Capital of the Philippines", then Masbate would like to have a talk about it

A tiny community celebrating the town’s fiesta welcomed us with a simple feast. This was followed by a short hike to the Jintotolo Lighthouse, which was built in the 1890’s. 

Masbate Travel Guide
Surveying the spectacular 360-degree view from the lighthouse

The lighthouse, one of the Philippines' 23 remaining Spanish-era sea watchtowers, stands at about 50 feet tall atop a hill and overlooks a beautiful channel where the wrecks of two Japanese ships from World War II—the cruiser Kinu and the destroyer Uranami—rests at the bottom.

Movement in Play Yoga
Blessed with fertile lands, plantations like this Dragonfruit trees are a common sight all throughout the province

The next day finds us driving through Masbate's picturesque countryside, past vast cattle ranches and farms before stopping briefly at Lumawig River Adventure Park for a floating lunch through a mangrove forest.

Cheekie Albay
This writer thoroughly enjoyed a soothing dip in the waters of Balangingi Island

The rest of our mainland Masbate jaunt had us visiting a farmstead, a hillside retreat and a bevy of breathtaking natural wonders. These includes the crescent shaped Guinlobngan Island off the coastal town of Cawayan, Isla Florencia, with its coconut tree-lined canopy, was ideal for an island lunch, the 2.8-kilometer Kurokabayo sandbar, a spellbinding man-made lagoon in Matayum, a long white sand beach in Aroroy, the heritage Balay ni Bayot  house, and Balangingi Island in Pio V. Corpuz on the eastern part of Masbate.

Ticao Island

My second time on Ticao Island worked like a charm. This time, I was able to explore one of the island's quaint communities on foot before we drove off via a gorgeous route bookended by a magical sunset on one end and the azure ocean on the other.

Monina Sanchez
Aside from Manta Rays, baby sharks is another common sighting in Ticao Island, especially here in Halea Nature Park

I also get to revisit Halea Nature Park and Catandayagan Falls, two of the Philippines' most impressive natural attractions.

Anne Gumiran
Catandayagan Falls is a unique waterfalls where the water directly flows into the ocean

Halea is located on San Miguel Island, one of two islands on the northern tip of. Here, one can enjoy a peaceful beach bumming moment as well as go snorkeling and swim with dozens of baby sharks that frequents the cove.  Ticao Island is also home to a rare waterfall. The 100-feet plus Catandayagan Falls is one of only around 40 waterfalls in the world that directly debouche into the ocean.

Monina Sanchez
Since the pandemic, a small number of coastal resorts following strict building codes like Tinigban Beach Club Resort have opened, providing an alternative for those looking for a taste of a Boracay-like beach in a more peaceful setting

This trip also introduced me to the island’s other attractions that I missed out on my earlier visit. There’s the 244.72-hectare Bongsanglay Natural Park that is home to a dense mangrove forest, including three rare Sonneratia tree species that give the it a distinct status, as well as maze of marshes.

Justine Sy
Sunset becomes two-folds amazing here at Buntod Reef Sanctuary

Our last day on Ticao Island was capped by a stopover at Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary Sandbar on our way back to Masbate mainland. This marine sanctuary is managed by the SAMAPUSI (Samahan ng Mangingisda ng Puro-Sinalikway), an organization made up primarily of former "blast fishermen" now turned "reef rangers".

Levy Amosin and Celine Murillo
this man-made lagoon in Matayum is converted into a frenetic scene for the "Bagat-Dagat" festival, a festival held every June

As the sun slowly sets into the horizon and the sky bursts with a reddish glow, I was reminded of how beautiful the world is, specifically this part of the planet, as excitement surged through me at the prospect of what beauty looms in our next island destination: Burias Island.

Burias Island

A sleeper ferry transported us from midnight in Masbate mainland to waking up to a sunrise in Burias Island. This final phase of our 11-day trip to Masbate solidified my opinion of the province as having the most potential to become a major tourism draw in the Philippines.

Mishi Magno
The view from above of Tinalisayan Island is as beautiful as it is on the ground

After a stuffed breakfast, we hit the ground running by hopping into a double-decked boat and proceeded to our island-hopping tour visiting Burias’ three popular islands of Animasola, Tinalisayan and Sombrero.

Animasola Island Masbate
Appreciating the "animal sa ganda ng isla" before taking a swim at Animasola Island

The secluded Animasola island off the coast of San Pascual in Burias Island is a sight of pristine beauty, despite its haunting name "Animasola," which in Catholic tradition portrays a "lonely soul" trapped in purgatory. Thanks to its jagged cliffs, powdery white sand, and brilliant blue waters, it transports travelers to a paradisiacal time and place.

Milet Miranda
Visitors can ride a kayak to explore the vast mangrove forest here at Bongsanglay Natural Park in Ticao Island

Next up was Tinalisayan. After flying my drone for 10 minutes, I quickly packed it up to take a dip at the island's turquoise-colored waters to enjoy another magical moment in the sun. I would have stayed on the water longer to get more sun-tanned if not for the call of sumptuous boodle feast awaiting us on our boat.

Balinsasayaw house in Masbate
A random house in Burias Island mysteriously became a chosen nesting house of hundreds of balinsasayaw (swiftlets) birds

On our way to Sombrero Island, we passed by other islands such as Virgin Island and the fascinating rocky islet called Templo Island, which has a crucifix perched on top of its rock-strewn base.

Monina Sanchez
The fine white sands and tempting waters of Sombrero Island

Sombrero Island was the perfect capstone to yet another fantastic day. Named as such because of the odd shape of the island's islet tip, which resembles a sombrero. Sombrero Island, is characterized by an expansive sandbar marking its perimeter leading to the main island lush with greens and home to a few small resorts, and on its tip, the notable hat-shaped rock formation.

Definitely, not my last Masbate Rodeo

As an agricultural hub, Masbate province is dotted with ranches that are home to tens of thousands of cattle and horses. Masbate's rodeo culture developed in this environment. Most of us would be forgiven for assuming that Masbate's "cowboy culture" was ripped from the American wild west playbook, but further research suggests Masbate’s and the American’s rodeo culture can be traced back to the Mexican Vaqueros.

Levy Amosin
We chanced upon this group performing a cowboy line dance in front of Masbate Capitol

To celebrate the province’s Rodeo tradition, the Rodeo Masbateño Festival is held every month of April to showcase the province's cattle and livestock industry as well as some game horsemanship.

Jo Serrano
Once a week, people gather in this marketplace to auction of their livestock animals that includes goats, horses, cows, pigs and chickens

Masbate has more than simply its natural wonders, such as its stunning islands and picture-perfect scenery; it also boasts a rich culture and a culinary scene that will make you gain weight willingly. Who couldn’t say no to gigantic crabs, heavyweight fish, tiger prawns and a heaping helping of scallops? Definitely nobody. I think it is safe to say that this trip won’t be my last rodeo in Masbate.