Gilgamesh is the Priest-King of the city of Uruk. He is a tyrannical king who works his people to death and takes what he wants from them. He kills the young men at will and uses the women as he pleases. The people of Uruk cry out to the gods for help so that they can have peace.
The gods hear them and instruct Anu, the goddess of creation, to make a twin for Gilgamesh, someone who is strong enough to stand up to him and who will ultimately save him. Anu makes Enkidu, a hairy wild man who lives in the wilderness with the animals.
One day a trapper sees Enkidu by a water hole and is frightened. He tells his father of the wild man he saw. His father tells the trapper to go to see Gilgamesh. He tells his son to ask the king for a temple prostitute to bring back with him to seduce Enkidu. The trapper returns withShamhat, a temple prostitute from the temple of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war. They wait for Enkidu to reappear by the watering hole.
Enkidu returns and Shamhat reveals herself to him. They copulate for six days and seven nights. When Enkidu is satisfied, he finds that the animals no longer accept him. Shamhat tells him to come back with her to Uruk. Upon hearing of Gilgamesh, Enkidu decides he wishes to meet him. The two set out for Uruk, making a stop at a shepherd’s camp. There Enkidu learns that Gilgamesh will sleep with a newly married bride on her wedding night, before her husband sleeps with her. He is outraged and decides he must stop Gilgamesh. Meanwhile, Gilgamesh has several dreams foretelling the arrival of Enkidu.
The two meet in the streets of Uruk and a great fight breaks out between them. Gilgamesh is triumphant but his encounter with Enkidu changes him. They become companions. Enkidu tells Gilgamesh of Humbaba, a terrible monster who guards the Cedar Forest. Gilgamesh decides the two of them should journey there and defeat the monster.
They make preparations and head to the Cedar Forest. They encounter Humbaba and with the help of Shamash, the sun god, defeat him. They return to Uruk carrying his head. After a celebration, Gilgamesh bathes himself and catches the eye of Ishtar. She tells him to become her lover, promising great riches and rewards in return. Gilgamesh rejects Ishtar, telling her he is aware of her reputation as a scornful lover.
Ishtar is outraged and convinces her father, Anu, to release the Bull of Heaven to punish Gilgamesh. The Bull of Heaven descends on Uruk, killing hundreds of men. Enkidu seizes the animal and Gilgamesh kills it with a sword. Ishtar appears and threatens the heroes. Enkidu tears off one of the Bull’s haunches and throws it at Ishtar. Later that night, Enkidu has a dream that the gods are meeting in council.
The dream proves true. The gods decide that one of the heroes must die for their behavior. They choose Enkidu. Enkidu falls ill and suffers for twelve days before finally dying. Gilgamesh is shattered. He mourns for days and tears his hair and clothes. He adorns filthy animal skins and journeys into the forest and mountains. He has witnessed death and is now terrified of his own mortality. He seeks to escape it.
Gilgamesh decides to seek out Utnapishtim, the one being granted immortality by the gods. He travels to Mount Mashu, a twin-peaked mountain that marks an entrance to a world in which mortals cannot venture. He convinces the guards of the mountain, two Scorpion-man beings, to allow him to enter a long passage under the mountain. He endures this terrible darkness for a full day.
When he emerges on the other side, he is in a wondrous paradise. He sees a tavern by the sea and approaches it, frightening its owner, Siduri, with his appearance. Siduri allows him to enter the tavern after he explains his story and his intention to find Utnapishtim. Siduri tells Gilgamesh of Urshanabi, the boatman, who can ferry Gilgamesh across the Waters of Death to where Utnapishtim resides.
Gilgamesh finds Urshanabi and the two set out to find Utnapishtim. They reach a shore and Gilgamesh meets an old man. Gilgamesh explains that he wishes to attain immortality. The old man is Utnapishtim, who tells Gilgamesh that immortality is for the gods alone. Mortals must learn to accept death. He tells Gilgamesh the story of how he was granted immortality by the gods. He asks Gilgamesh what he has done to deserve this same gift.
Gilgamesh finally leaves with Urshanabi to return to Uruk. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh of a magical plant at the bottom of the sea that can restore one’s youth. Gilgamesh descends into the waters and retrieves the plant.
On his way back to Uruk, Gilgamesh stops to bathe in a spring, leaving the plant by the water. A serpent appears and steals the plant, leaving Gilgamesh weeping by the water’s edge. He returns to Uruk with Urshanabi. Upon seeing the great city, Gilgamesh understands that it is his legacy, and that if he rules well, it will be his greatest legacy. Gilgamesh comes to understand that the most important thing in life is to have lived and loved well.
The epic’s prelude offers a general introduction to Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, who was two-thirds god and one-third man. He built magnificent ziggurats, or temple towers, surrounded his city with high walls, and laid out its orchards and fields. He was physically beautiful, immensely strong, and very wise. Although Gilgamesh was godlike in body and mind, he began his kingship as a cruel despot. He lorded over his subjects, raping any woman who struck his fancy, whether she was the wife of one of his warriors or the daughter of a nobleman.
He accomplished his building projects with forced labor, and his exhausted subjects groaned under his oppression. The gods heard his subjects’ pleas and decided to keep Gilgamesh in check by creating a wild man named Enkidu, who was as magnificent as Gilgamesh. Enkidu became Gilgamesh’s great friend, and Gilgamesh’s heart was shattered when Enkidu died of an illness inflicted by the gods. Gilgamesh then traveled to the edge of the world and learned about the days before the deluge and other secrets of the gods, and he recorded them on stone tablets.
The epic begins with Enkidu. He lives with the animals, suckling at their breasts, grazing in the meadows, and drinking at their watering places. A hunter discovers him and sends a temple prostitute into the wilderness to tame him. In that time, people considered women and sex calming forces that could domesticate wild men like Enkidu and bring them into the civilized world. When Enkidu sleeps with the woman, the animals reject him since he is no longer one of them. Now, he is part of the human world.
Then the harlot teaches him everything he needs to know to be a man. Enkidu is outraged by what he hears about Gilgamesh’s excesses, so he travels to Uruk to challenge him. When he arrives, Gilgamesh is about to force his way into a bride’s wedding chamber. Enkidu steps into the doorway and blocks his passage. The two men wrestle fiercely for a long time, and Gilgamesh finally prevails. After that, they become friends and set about looking for an adventure to share.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu decide to steal trees from a distant cedar forest forbidden to mortals. A terrifying demon named Humbaba, the devoted servant of Enlil, the god of earth, wind, and air, guards it. The two heroes make the perilous journey to the forest, and, standing side by side, fight with the monster. With assistance from Shamash the sun god, they kill him. Then they cut down the forbidden trees, fashion the tallest into an enormous gate, make the rest into a raft, and float on it back to Uruk.
Upon their return, Ishtar, the goddess of love, is overcome with lust for Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh spurns her. Enraged, the goddess asks her father, Anu, the god of the sky, to send the Bull of Heaven to punish him. The bull comes down from the sky, bringing with him seven years of famine. Gilgamesh and Enkidu wrestle with the bull and kill it. The gods meet in council and agree that one of the two friends must be punished for their transgression, and they decide Enkidu is going to die. He takes ill, suffers immensely, and shares his visions of the underworld with Gilgamesh. When he finally dies, Gilgamesh is heartbroken.
Gilgamesh can’t stop grieving for Enkidu, and he can’t stop brooding about the prospect of his own death. Exchanging his kingly garments for animal skins as a way of mourning Enkidu, he sets off into the wilderness, determined to find Utnapishtim, the Mesopotamian Noah. After the flood, the gods had granted Utnapishtim eternal life, and Gilgamesh hopes that Utnapishtim can tell him how he might avoid death too. Gilgamesh’s journey takes him to the twin-peaked mountain called Mashu, where the sun sets into one side of the mountain at night and rises out of the other side in the morning. Utnapishtim lives beyond the mountain, but the two scorpion monsters that guard its entrance refuse to allow Gilgamesh into the tunnel that passes through it. Gilgamesh pleads with them, and they relent.
After a harrowing passage through total darkness, Gilgamesh emerges into a beautiful garden by the sea. There he meets Siduri, a veiled tavern keeper, and tells her about his quest. She warns him that seeking immortality is futile and that he should be satisfied with the pleasures of this world. However, when she can’t turn him away from his purpose, she directs him to Urshanabi, the ferryman. Urshanabi takes Gilgamesh on the boat journey across the sea and through the Waters of Death to Utnapishtim.
Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh the story of the flood—how the gods met in council and decided to destroy humankind. Ea, the god of wisdom, warned Utnapishtim about the gods’ plans and told him how to fashion a gigantic boat in which his family and the seed of every living creature might escape. When the waters finally receded, the gods regretted what they’d done and agreed that they would never try to destroy humankind again. Utnapishtim was rewarded with eternal life. Men would die, but humankind would continue.
When Gilgamesh insists that he be allowed to live forever, Utnapishtim gives him a test. If you think you can stay alive for eternity, he says, surely you can stay awake for a week. Gilgamesh tries and immediately fails. So Utnapishtim orders him to clean himself up, put on his royal garments again, and return to Uruk where he belongs. Just as Gilgamesh is departing, however, Utnapishtim’s wife convinces him to tell Gilgamesh about a miraculous plant that restores youth. Gilgamesh finds the plant and takes it with him, planning to share it with the elders of Uruk. But a snake steals the plant one night while they are camping. As the serpent slithers away, it sheds its skin and becomes young again.
When Gilgamesh returns to Uruk, he is empty-handed but reconciled at last to his mortality. He knows that he can’t live forever but that humankind will. Now he sees that the city he had repudiated in his grief and terror is a magnificent, enduring achievement—the closest thing to immortality to which a mortal can aspire.
Rodeo Arena, Masbate City
Catch the thrill and excitement of real rodeo action!
The Rodeo Masbateno Festival is held at the Rodeo Arena, Masbate around March of each year.
The Rodeo Masbateno Festival is considered as the biggest rodeo event in the Philippines. This annual event was organized in 1993 by local Ranchers and Businessmen, in a bid to put the province of Masbate in the map to boost Philippine Tourism. Masbate for one is considered as the cattle province in the country and this annual Rodeo Masbateno Festival just re-affirms this status.
Rodeo Masbateno attracts CowBoys as well as CowGirls from across the archipelago, to show off their skills and in a thrilling and exciting as well as action packed rodeo events.
Come and join the Annual Rodeo Masbateno Festival!
• MASBATE, Philippines – Dubbed as the Wild Wild West of the Philippines, Masbate will once again comes alive this April 9-14 for its annual Rodeo Masbateno Festival.
• Home of the biggest cattle ranching in the Philippines, Masbate has long bounced back from the peril days it suffered at the end of World War II.
• Back then, the Japanese army as taken so much beef meat that resulted to many starving locals.
• As a way of uplifting the local cattle industry, ranchers in the province started Rodeo Masbateno Festival in 1993.
• Rodeo Masbateno Festival brings one to experience a weeklong array of fun and excitement of a cowboy’s life.
• In this international fair, the arena bursts with fun and excitement and shouting.
• Events include the “figure of eight” competition where the cowboy crisscrosses around a group of barrels, steer wrestling as well as the cattle drive.
• Fearless women also participate in the heart stopping events like calf-wrestling, bull riding, calf lassoing, and karambola.
• The festival also includes livestock shows, colorful parade of horse riders, animal health seminars, an agro-industrial fair and a country carnival.
• For discerning travelers seeking for some adventure, Masbate has more to offer than just cattle and the best beef stakes in the Philippines.
• Masbate island prides itself with verdant rolling hills, underground rivers, unexplored caves and rich aquatic reserve.
MASBATE CITY—This week Masbate becomes alive with the hisses of lassos and bullwhips hurled into the air as the Rodeo Masbateño Festival pits cowboys and ranch hands from all over the country against each other and try to rebuild the “shattered” image of the island province. • Some 36 teams with 400 participants from places as far as Benguet, Bukidnon, Cagayan and Sultan Kudarat provinces are participating in the various events in this year’s festival. For the first time, Mindoro provinces sent their own cowboys and ranch hands to compete. • The contests are not limited to cowboys as all of the competitions have corresponding categories for women. Three teams or 30 cowboys are representing Masbate, including teams composed of students from schools and colleges in the province.
• Events, among others, include bull riding, cattle lassoing, cattle wrestling from horseback, cattle wrestling on foot, and load-carrying relay. Winners of the various events will be announced formally when the festival ends on Saturday. • Also, there is a livestock show and trade fair during the entire duration of the festival which organizers claim is the largest and only sports festival in the country. • A grand parade of 426 horses was staged on Monday in Masbate City where most of the events are held. • Organizers said it set a record as the longest horse parade in Asia. • On Tuesday, 500 street dancers representing 11 municipalities in the province performed a barn dance on city thoroughfares. • Then on Wednesday, herds of 70 cattle were driven by trained cowboys and ranch hands on a 2.5-kilometer stretch of road. • The cattle drive intended to bring back the time when cattle were driven by foot from the different towns of Masbate for shipment to various parts of the country such as Batangas province.
• To ensure the safety of residents and spectators, all houses and stores where the cattle drive will pass through were advised to close temporarily and watch from safe perches. • Once identified with feuding politicians, Rodeo Masbateño has been changing the image of the island province in recent years, said this year’s organizers of the festival, which pays homage to the livestock industry in the southernmost province of Bicol. • “Once, it was divisive because its celebration depended on who was manning the provincial government. There were times when it was not celebrated because of politics, especially when it would coincide with election period,” said Judge Manuel Sese, president of the Rodeo Masbateño Inc. (RMI), festival organizer and organization of cattle-raisers in Masbate.
• In February last year, RMI decided to reorganize the festival and veer it away from politics. • “Masbate is known only for two things—political violence and rodeo. There is no other way to promote Masbate now to the outside world except through Rodeo Masbateño. We have to revive the festival or we will be associated always with political killings,” said Sese. • Taking advantage of the influx of visitors wanting to experience the festival, organizers hope to promote tourism in Masbate and encourage investment in the province. • Masbate adopted the rodeo as it was popularized by American movies and books to boost its cattle industry and showcase its potential in 1993.
• Research endorsed by the provincial government traces modern rodeos to 19th century post-Civil War America, which saw the boom of the cattle industry and the transportation of livestock from the open ranges of the West to the more populated Eastern settlements. • The modern-day “rodeo,” a term derived from the Spanish rodear meaning “to surround,” serves as contests and exhibitions of skills derived from rounding up cattle. • Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete said the title Rodeo Capital of the Philippines should belong to Masbate, recognizing the fact that similar rodeo events have sprouted everywhere in the country, especially in General Santos City. • “As such, the provincial government is proposing to ask the Congress to pass a law declaring every second Monday of April in Masbate, when Rodeo Masbateño Festival kicks off, as a nonworking holiday,” she said. • Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alacala represented President Aquino in this year’s event, which was also attended by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.
Rolling pasturelands and coconut plantations, white-sand beaches, picturesque towns, abundant fishing grounds and rich gold, copper and nickel deposits virtually make the island-province of Masbate a paradise. Located 377 kilometers southeast of Manila, Masbate is also home to a vibrant culture and rich heritage. Every April, the Rodeo Masbateño Festival, which pays tribute to its livestock industry, is celebrated. Spanish-era lighthouses and stone houses also dot the land. And with its strategic location at the crossroads of the Philippine archipelago, it is hard to imagine why the first-class province (annual income: at least 450 million) with a population of 768,939 remains among the 20 poorest in the country.
What’s holding back Masbate? This lingering question has stigmatized the province, and its leaders have only one answer—political violence. “We need investments to spur economic development. But who would come to a place known for violence?” says Mayor Enrico Capinig of Aroroy, a mining town in the northernmost portion of the mainland. Capinig says political violence has not only scared off investors. “It also drives away residents of the province, who instead of working here have looked for greener pastures (elsewhere).” The combined effects of insufficient investment and localized brain drain have resulted in poverty, he adds. Politics is business
In 2000, 10 of Masbate’s 20 towns and one city had a poverty incidence of 65 percent, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NCSB). The figure indicates that almost seven of 10 families in a locality are living below the poverty line. In 2009, poverty incidence was at 54.2 percent.
Capinig traces the violence that breeds poverty to the political system in the province. “For some, politics here is business. Whoever is in power does everything to cling to the position even at the point of committing violent acts, such as murder.” Some politicians, he says, earn from government projects through the so-called “SOP,” which literally means “standard operating procedure” but is actually a euphemism for kickbacks. Cawayan Mayor Edgar Condor says political violence also results from the presence and activities of armed groups kept by political families. “The gubernatorial seat has been passed on from the Espinosas to the Khos and to the Lanetes, but political violence lingers,” Condor says. He says violence somewhat eased during the term of Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, the incumbent governor. “But killings persist and this jolts investors at the expense of the economic development of our province.
Unless we replace the leaders who have criminal instinct, nothing much will happen.” Richard Talento, who teaches sociology and political science at Camarines Norte State College and an advocate of Bicol regional autonomy, notes a strong correlation between political violence and poverty, and how this rears its ugly head in Masbate. “Political violence [comes] in many forms, such as threat, intimidation and outright physical extermination of a political opponent and/or their supporters,” Talento says. “Political violence primarily takes its toll on the human resources as the victims’ potential for positive contribution is eliminated. Due to threat and intimidation, dissent is silenced together with consensual approach to developmental tasks by the contending parties.”
He says Masbate has been characterized by chronic political violence that has been counterproductive. “True, Masbate has vast potentials in terms of natural and human resources but the [current situation] stifles these potentials. How can development be realized in a structurally violent environment?” A militant human rights group, Karapatan, agrees that politics has been one of the reasons why the province is poor despite its ample natural resources. “Feuds between political clans inadvertently or not claim the lives of either unknowing civilians or loyal supporters,” says Paul Vincent Casilihan, Karapatan-Bicol spokesperson. Some residents lament that the murderous image of Masbate has been the result of unfair publicity or excesses in reporting. But police records show weekly killings, many of which are politically motivated.
According to the provincial police office, 154 murder cases and 30 homicide cases occurred in the province in 2010, when a general election took place. Twenty-one of the killings took place in the poor municipality of Uson, 22 km southeast of the capital of Masbate City. Sixteen were reported right in the city. Also in 2010, 15 murders were committed in Aroroy, six in Cawayan, and 14 in Placer. Most of the cases remain unresolved and have been linked to politics. “Masbate is politically violent not just during election periods but for most of every year, especially before every election,” says Alberto Cañares III, Commission on Election (Comelec) supervisor of the province. Perennially, Masbate has been on the Comelec list of election hot spots due to its long history of political violence.
In March 1989, Rep. Moises Espinosa Sr., a political patriarch, was shot dead by a lone man, later identified as Florencio Fernandez, on the tarmac of the Masbate Airport. Fernandez was later convicted. On Aug. 21, the barangay chief of San Vicente in Dimasalang town was shot and killed in the presence of his son. Rodolfo Toling, 38, was attacked early in the morning while on board a motorcycle driven by his son. They were traversing a winding road in Barangay Gregorio Aliño that leads to the town proper, 30 km from Masbate City. Capinig says political violence proliferates partly because of a shortage in the number of law enforcers. “We have a very low police personnel-to-population ratio in our province. In Aroroy alone, we have very few peacekeepers …. It’s good that Army soldiers [are] … in our town,” the mayor says.
Capinig and Condor suggest two ways to curb the violence.President Benigno Aquino III should have the political will to address the situation in Masbate and should not adhere to its patronage system, Capinig says. “The practice of politicians here is to get as close as they can to the sitting President so their influence would grow. It must be stopped.” For Condor, the solution is for local chief executives engaged in violent acts to realize finally that their own wrongdoings are weighing down the entire province. “The killings should stop,” he says.
Despite the vicious cycle of violence and impunity in the province and the stigma and despair it brings, a peace group still hopes that halting the trend is not an exercise in futility.
Aroroy-Baleno Judge Igmedio Emilio Camposano, spokesperson of the Masbate Advocates for Peace (MAP), says it is not yet too late to wage peace. The MAP is a Church-led group of volunteers from various sectors, including business, youth, academe and people’s organizations. It was credited for lowering the number of political killings last year, when it campaigned for violence-free elections through “peace caravans.” Along with Special Task Force Masbate composed of police and military officers, the MAP was instrumental in pressing political clans to surrender their firearms. “The challenge is how to sustain our efforts until politicians realize that all these violent acts must stop if Masbate has to move on,” Camposano says. Ending the violence, he says, must be the concern of every Masbateño who still cares.
“Masbate does not need heroes who should die in Tirad Pass. What we need is daily heroism. What we need are ordinary persons who do extraordinary things, such as seeking to end violence in our province through various peaceful means,” Camposano says. He says every resident needs to “die a little” every day through “sacrifices” in order to achieve peace. Still, he says only a few would come during meetings of MAP “out of fear of [retribution].” “We have fears. But we gain strength from our collective fears,” says Camposano, referring to the MAP’s dwindling ranks. He says it will help a lot if every resident will be an “ambassador of goodwill” and ready to tell outsiders that good things are also happening in Masbate, that there are more to the province than violence and killings. “Yes, there are problems, but these are being addressed. Every resident of Masbate can say this,” Camposano says.
The Rodeo Masbateño Festival is an annual event which takes place in Masbate Citywhich showcases skills in livestock handling, such as lassoing, wrestling, and riding cattle. Also included in the event are a fair and exhibitions and trade of cattle and horses. The event has taken place every summer since 1993 in the province of Masbate, which is traditionally considered the “Cattle Country of the Philippines.”
he festival opens with a lively parade of horseback riders. There are also livestock shows, a carnival, and a trade fair featuring local products, as well as animal health seminars.
The highlight of the event is the rodeo competition itself. Men and women dress up in cowboy outfits to perform stunts like lassoing on foot and on horseback, livestock wrestling, casting down, load carrying, bull riding and whipping, the two-person carambola, and other activities related to the handling of livestock. These events draw people from the rest of the Philippines and around the world as well as locals. International cowboys and bull riders also participate in the competitions.
he Rodeo Masbateño Festival was conceived in 1992 as a way of uplifting the local cattle industry. It was started by MAKUSOG, a group of ranchers and businesspeople of Masbate, who formed the Rodeo Masbateño Foundation. There had been a long tradition of cattle raising in the province, with some 81% of its land used for pasturing livestock, but at that point in time the industry was in a slump. With the support of the provincial governor Emilio Espinosa Jr., the first Rodeo was staged in 1993. Following this, it became an annual event that improved tourism as well as commerce in the region and increased the locals’ pride in their province’s unique identity and products.
The event was initially known as Rodeo Filipino, but the name was eventually changed to Rodeo Masbateño. It grew into a national event over the years, attracting tourists from all over the Philippines and abroad. In recognition of the success of this event, on September 2, 2002, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyoissued Executive Order No. 120 declaring Masbate as the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines. Masbate has also become known as the Rodeo Capital of Asia and is now affiliated with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association of America. Its homegrown cowboys, whose rodeo talents have been honed at the festival, have participated in the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas.
MASBATE CITY, April 16 (PNA) -– Organizers of the Rodeo Masbateño Festival believe it recorded the biggest horse parade presented in modern Asia. Mounted with cowboys and cowgirls, around 500 horses trotted main streets here during the closing day of the festival last Saturday. This provincial capital was the center of the festival celebrated in the province yearly. “We hope the feat would be recorded as the biggest horse parade ever in modern Asia,” Regional Trial Court Judge Manuel Sese, the head of the Rodeo Masbate Inc. that led the daunting task of drawing together the huge number of horses and riders on Monday said. The biggest horse parade recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records took place in Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia in northwestern South America on July 29, 2006. It involved 8,233 horses and their riders organized for the Fair of Flowers Cavalcade. Sese said no place in Asia has been able or even attempted to set a similar record.
Even the annual Ghode Jatra or Horse Racing Day in Nepal that falls on the month of March or early April that features a grand horse parade at Tundikhel, the central point of the city reputed to have been in the formers days the largest parade ground in Asia, has not set a record, he said. The Rodeo Masbateño horse parade that conjures up images of cowboys in the bygone era of the Wild West also featured street dancers in colorful barn costumes. At least 10,000 people lined on the city streets to watch the event. “We have about 10,000 horses distributed among several cattle ranches all over the province that is known as the ‘Rodeo Capital of Asia’ and the ‘cattle country’ of the Philippines but the about 500 heads that we paraded could be enough to set a record, in Asia, at least,” Sese said. The Rodeo Masbateño is a week-long event staged annually in the city. Held on April 9 to 14, the festival, apart from the colorful parade of horses and riders, also features rodeo competitions, livestock shows, animal health seminars, an agro-industrial fair and a country carnival.
In the competitions, men and women in colorful cowboy outfits slug it out in lassoing on foot and horseback wrestling, two-person carambola (free for all), bull riding, bullwhipping, casting down and load carrying. Sese said 40 teams saddle up to the corrals to outdo each other in the national finals of these rodeo events this year. Now on its 19th year, the festival has gained popularity among homegrown rodeo artists, international bull riders and cowboys over the years. Rodeo Masbate is now affiliated with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association of America and its local cowboys, whose rodeo talents have been honed at the festival, have participated in the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas. Conceived by MAKUSOG (Strong), an association of Masbate professional and business leaders in 1992 and was realized through then Masbate Governor Emilio Espinosa, the Rodeo Masbateño as a festival was first staged in 1993.
It was initially conceived as a modest tribute to the cattle farmers, cowhands, cowboys and the thousands of families who are directly and indirectly dependent on the industry for a living. There had been a long tradition of cattle raising in the province with some 81 percent of its land used for pasturing livestock. But in the early 1990s, the industry plummeted to a near collapse. It was then that the festival, first called as Rodeo Filipino and later changed to Rodeo Masbateño was launched to become an annual event that improved local tourism as well as commerce. It also intensified the locals’ pride in the province’s unique identity and products as it proved to be a boost to the industry and made the Masbateños aware of the need to help sustain the province’s title as the “cattle country.”
Espinosa was exposed to a rancher’s life a t a very young age. He was 14 years old when he first participated in cattle drives for his brother-in-law who owned a big ranch in Masbate. A cattle drive is where herds of cattle are manually driven from the various ranches to the port. According to him, he enjoyed the experience immensely. This, together with his innate passion for horses and livestock, inspired him to become a rancher. Espinosa eventually bought a ranch which he now calls Rancho Cuervo Verde.
Espinosa is a hands-on rancher. “I get involved in all aspects of the trade. A great rancher should, first of all, love the animals. He should know how to take care of them and also his ranch hands. He should also love the land that they graze on,” he shared.
Majority of Masbateños are in one way or another dependent on the livestock industry. Masbate’s terrain and weather plus its proximity to Batangas and Manila, makes the province an ideal place for ranching. However, Masbate’s livestock industry has seen challenging times, none more compelling than when its livestock produce suffered a considerable decline in 1993.
It was then that Espinosa, who was a congressman at that time, together with a group of ranch owners, organized the Rodeo Masbateno Inc. that staged the very first Rodeo Festival. Their primary goal was to help the cattle industry and prevent the situation from worsening. The Rodeo Festival served as a venue for ranch owners to showcase their animals to possible buyers. To make the event more entertaining, cowboy competitions were also staged.
Initially, Rodeo Festival was seen as an event dominated by Masbate’s elites. As years pass by, the Rodeo Festival has also attracted ordinary people. With more Masbateños getting involved during the festival, the event also gained national prominence and tourists started to notice. Thus, during the annual staging of the Rodeo Festival, local and international tourists flock the province to experience the one-of-a-kind event.
Through the years, Masbate’s livestock industry has undergone several positive changes. Property lines are now well defined through fences unlike before wherein ranch hands would watch over their herd practically the whole day so they would not mix with their neighbor’s cows.
Here’s another once-a-year chance for tourists to watch Filipino cowboys test their skills and strength in the backbreaking 10th Rodeo Masbateño Festival which kicks off today in Masbate City.
Daring cowboys belonging to various teams will compete in categories such as cattle bareback riding, lassoing on foot and horseback, casting down, carambola, wrestling on foot, load carrying and wood chopping events. A grand prize of R150,000 will be given away to the winning team, and R5,000 for individual winners.
Now on its 10th year, the Rodeo festival has earned for Masbate the title “Rodeo Capital of the Philippines,” a distinction that greatly contributes to the development of the tourism industry in the province.
This year’s sporting event showcases the province as a venue for the various rodeo events and its potential for investment and tourism opportunities.
Secretary Pagdanganan commended festival organizers — the Rodeo Masbateño, Inc. and the provincial government of Masbate — for their untiring efforts in promoting Masbate.
“This exciting and fun-filled competition is one way to draw interest of tourists to Masbate as the destination where rodeo sports is flourishing. This event will also hone the skills of local talents,” he said.
Masbate governor Antonio Kho said the festival will also provide visitors a glimpse of various farm animals available in the province as well as livestock handling skills, particularly the latest techniques in handling of livestock and horses for ranch and rodeo work.