Togi Explorer

My Travel Adventure

The Isla Rancho Country

DSC01602

Animasola Island

DSC01538

Animasola Island

DSC01711

Tinalisayan Island

DSC02134DSC02039

“Where is Masbate?” I embarrassingly search in Google after receiving an invitation to the Isla Rancho Festival in San Pascual. Truth be told, the province has never appeared on any list of popular summer destinations. Which is actually a good thing. For years, their beautiful beaches have escaped the scourge of mass tourism. Unexpectedly, Masbate has quite a list of pristine destinations waiting to be explored.

Located in the Bicol Region, Masbate lies at the center of the Philippine archipelago. Its hilly terrain is an ideal pastureland for cattle and other livestock. Relative to mainland Bicol, the province faces the southwestern coasts of Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon. It consists of three major islands: Masbate, Ticao and Burias, where the municipality of San Pascual, known as the island of the cattle ranches, is located.

The Festival

We arrive at the port of San Pascual with brightly colored banderitas flapping above our heads and a marching band practicing their piece at the plaza. Children are giggling and running across the streets, some are rehearsing their routines for the grand street dancing competition later that week. During the Isla Rancho Festival, celebrated every second week of May, this typically quiet community becomes vibrant with an endless list of peculiar and sometimes action-packed spectacles.

Many activities during this festival allow us a glimpse of the townspeople’s everyday life. Besides the calf lassoing competition, we witness a regular festival competition called the Bangkarera, derived from the words bangka (boat) and karera (race). Here, the bangka is propelled only by the boatman’s reliable paddle. Common to agricultural communities, traditional contests such as Coconut Husking, Wood Chopping and Load Carrying are also among the weeklong activities. There is also the Rancher’s Night, where everyone can partake in the Lechon Baka (RoastedCow) and some ice-cold beer while listening to the local bands. One of the highlights of the festival, and without a doubt the most spectacular, is the street dancing competition, where the performers from different villages are dressed in flamboyant and eye-popping costumes. And have I mentioned extravagant? This year’s winner gets a hundred thousand cash prize!

DSC02253DSC02277DSC02294DSC02288DSC02280DSC02206DSC02182DSC02298DSC02297DSC02214

Island Hopping

The coral fragments carpeting Animasola Island welcome me with a gentle pinch under my feet. Surrounded with clear and sparkling cerulean waters that allow us a glimpse of the luxuriant marine life, the island is an exhibit of spectacular rock formations. A few greens dangle from the towering rock cliff, which is decorated with lines running horizontally along its sides. Our guide Ningning says these lines are caused by weathering and erosion over time. Animasola Island is a surprising visual treat to our group of jaded travelers.

DSC01561

Animasola Island

DSC01588

Animasola Island

DSC01542

Animasola Island

DSC01528

Animasola Island

DSC01560

Animasola Island

The Tinalisayan Island shouldn’t be missed either. The small white sand island is backdropped with rust-colored coral-like cliffs and boulders. Not far from the island are some rock formations rising up beautifully from the sunset side of the sea and a long strip of gorgeous white sandbar.

Tinalisayan Island

Tinalisayan Island

Tinalisayan Island

Tinalisayan Island

Tinalisayan Island

Tinalisayan Island

Tinalisayan Island

Tinalisayan Island

DSC02140

 

The Balinsasayaw House

It is only in San Pascual where we see around eighty thousand swiftlets coexisting with humans under the same roof. Usually cave dwellers, the balinsasayaw started building their nests at the basement of the house of Eddie Espares in 1991. According to experts, the cave-like temperature of the house’s basement has caused this strange phenomenon. Despite the rancid smell, the family considers their boarders a blessing. They use the bird’s excrement as fertilizer to their organic farm. Also, they have easy access to the swiftlet’s nest, the rarest and most expensive ingredient of the Bird’s Nest Soup or the Nido Soup, a Chinese delicacy that is popular in the country. The nest, made of the bird’s saliva, is traditionally believed to provide health benefits such as strengthening the immune system and increasing libido.

DSC01444 DSC01434 DSC01432 DSC01413 DSC01364

Ancient Structures

Besides the Balinsasayaw House, the Spanish-inspired ancestral houses are also worthwhile stopovers. Built in the 1930s, its walls and trusses made of local hardwood trees like hamorawon, dungon and kansayud are still intact. Inside these houses are antique religious statuettes, furniture pieces, decors and even rare archaeological artifacts like chinaware and ceramics.

History enthusiasts would be delighted to know that one of the oldest churches in the Philippines can be found at the center of San Pascual. Although there is no extant record of its construction date, it is believed that the original structure of San Pascual Baylon Parish Church was built around 1570. The edifice is simple, yet its coralstone walls are thick and impregnable, typical of the any Spanish-era church.

a Spanish-inspired ancestral house

a Spanish-inspired ancestral house

DSC01483 DSC01480

inside the old house

inside the old house

San Pascual Baylon Church, one of the oldest churches in the country

San Pascual Baylon Church, one of the oldest churches in the country

The Countryside

On our last day, we decide to visit the highlands, mangrove areas and the bat sanctuary. The farms and rolling hills that we pass by are nothing less than picturesque. Oblivious of the bumpy ride, we stare in dreamy contentment at the cattle grazing upon the steep hillside pastures. Blessed with an ideal landscape, San Pascual alone has around 15 huge ranches, which supplies beef to other provinces in Luzon. Besides the ranches, the town also has an impressive expanse of mangrove plantation, with a total area of 1,287 hectares from its 20 identified villages.

 

Not far from the mangrove areas is the Mapanique River. Living up to its name, it is a home to several species of big fruit-eating bats, which we see dangling from the branches of the lofty Calumpang trees. Sometimes, some would detach and flap their wings heavily before disappearing around a bend in the river. Enjoying the cool refreshing air as we squeeze ourselves on the tiny fishing boat, we maintain a sharp lookout for exotic birds lurking among the lush vegetation. The first few minutes are uneventful, until we see wild ducks flapping low across the water. Occasionally, colorful birds would rise from their perch and fly swiftly away as our boat pass them by.

DSC02074

DSC02045 DSC02090

“What is in Masbate anyway?” The question crossed my mind a few days ago. I am guilty of downplaying the province’s ability of amaze its visitors. Turns out the surprisingly beautiful destinations we saw for the past three days in San Pascual, Burias Island are just a glimpse of what this unassuming province can offer.

DSC02107DSC01493DSC01313

 

Sombrero Island

Sombrero Island

How to Go To San Pascual, Burias Island in Masbate:

1.) via Naga Airport:

a.) Go to the North Bound Terminal and ride a jeepney/van going to Pasacao Port (1 hour)

b.) At the Pasacao Port, ride a boat going to San Pascual, Burias Island (2 hours)

 

2.) via Masbate Airport

a.) Go to the Masbate City Port

b.) Ride a boat going to Claveria in Burias Island (2 hours)

c.) Ride a motorcycle/habal-habal to San Pascual (30 minutes)

 

Tour Packages:

1.)  2D1N- Php 1,800

Inclusions: Meals (Lunch and Dinner)

Aircon Room Accommodations

Transportation for Island Hopping

Entrance Fees

Tour Guide Services

 

2.)  3D2N-Php 2,800

Inclusions: Meals (Lunch and Dinner)

Aircon Room Accommodations

Transportation for Island Hopping

Entrance Fees

Tour Guide Services

You may call Cecille of San Pascual Tourism Office for inquiries: 09199112270

Where to Stay:

 

Sunset View Tourist Inn

Rates: Single with aircon and tv (common bathroom)- Php 680

Double Deluxe with aircon and tv (common bathroom)- Php 1,300

Family Room Good for 6 with aircon, tv and private bathroom-Php 2,500

Call  Erma 09484729467 or Jeric 09108056661 for reservations

Previous

Balabac, A Secret Paradise

Next

Club Paradise

7 Comments

  1. Karl Cj

    the descriptions and text were amazingly crafted. pictures are fully loaded with the so called editorial and technical value. kudos to you friend. you make San Pascual a funnier place to stay as we promote the Dept of Tourism’s battle cry: ” Its more fun in the Philippines”. “Kugi San Pascual!”

  2. MPT

    hi, from the Naga Airport, it’s not the Bus Terminal, they might get confused, it should be the North Bound Terminal not CBD 🙂

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén