Like any ordinary Masbateņo, I do not know the present population of my province, its total land area, or any such statistics. I can make a guess yes, but instead of embarrassing myself, I'd rather get the official figures from a reliable source. In this page, all you'll get is a straightforward description of the province from a native's point of view. (The picture below shows my beloved hometown Masbate as you approach it from a ship. This is my birth place and this is where I grew up. Pls. click on the picture to see the bigger photo.)
Masbate province is composed of three neighboring islands - Burias, Ticao, and Masbate. Geographically, these three are separate from Luzon island but are considered part of the Luzon group of islands (please see map).
Masbateņos, depending on which part of the province they reside, speak one of the three local languages commonly used (not dialects because each is not a variation of the others) namely Cebuano, Ilonggo, and Masbateņo which sounds similar to Waray. If that is not confusing enough, the province is officially a part of Bicol Region which is mostly composed of provinces at the tip of Luzon whose people speak Bicolano. Masbate is therefore, to use a cliché, like a square peg in a round hole. We are hesitant to introduce ourselves as Bicolanos for most can't fluently speak the region's language. On the other hand, our tongue and geographical location make us identify with the Visayans more. So yes, the province is in some sort of identity crisis.
I found out when I studied in Manila that a number of Filipinos do not even know where Masbate is located. I once told a classmate that it is near Borneo and he accepted it matter-of-factly. This is not surprising considering that Masbate is considered one of the poorest provinces in the country and is not particularly known as a tourist destination. It doesn't have any exclusive or unique local product that will advertise its name, either. In Philippine history books, you'd get lucky if you found any mention of Masbate. Our politicians? They are mostly silent or absent in Congress.
We, Masbateņos, like to call our province "The Cattle Country of the Philippines" (derived from the Marlboro commercial) because the island has plenty of pastures for cattle grazing making it the country's primary beef source. To anybody who says that cattle from the province are emaciated and malnourished, I would like to strongly reply that such remark is a malicious lie. We are proud of our cattle and I could, to refute any misinformation, confidently say that we have first-rate bovine livestock. Those who assert otherwise are probably biased .... well, non-Masbateņos. (Sounds defensive, huh?)
It must be emphasized, however, that not many Masbateņos are ranch owners. Only few rich families own all those cattle. But we do have a lot of really fine cowboys who compete with each other during an annual rodeo, called RODEO MASBATEŅO.
Besides cattle, the other provincial main sources of income are coconut, fishing, and gold mining (mostly small-scale and and probably illegal).
One good thing about being a poor province is that Masbate remains rural and simple. It has no pollution and traffic. The beaches are clean and breathtaking in their natural beauty. Fish and vegetable are bountiful and fresh. But it's not all roses. For one thing, there's the waterworks problem which is my pet peeve.
(The following pictures are courtesy of John Donovan and his wife Lyn, who's a Masbateņa. A link to Lyn's web site is listed in the "Masbate Links" page. Though the photos were taken at Cawayan town, coconut trees and nondescript beaches are a common sight in the province. In the town of Baleno where my father came from, a lot of people have a beach for a backyard.)
If big political figures in the province appear not to be doing their jobs, it's because they are either busy plotting strategies for the next election or planning the murder of their opponents. When I checked how our Congressmen voted on critical national issues, as in the impeachment of the deposed President Estrada, they consistently rooted for the wrong side. What can one expect? These people are just a bunch of opportunists whose first loyalty was to themselves and their interests.
Since Marcos' time, politics has become a brutal arena in Masbate. The fact is Masbate only gets talked about in the country when an incident of political violence resulted in a death of a Congressman, a Mayor, a Governor, or a leading opposition figure. The suspects are also mayors, Congressmen, or ex-Governor. Indeed, if somebody will write about the political situation in the province, it will read like 'Godfather' with all the gory details of murder, deception, intrigue, and suspense (just before I left the country last year (2001), the newly elected mayor of the city was gunned down while attending a public dance). While these politicians are preoccupied with killing each other, the province suffers.
THE GOOD NEWS
If you are an ordinary resident or visitor, however, you need not fear for your life in Masbate. Only politicians are after each other's throats. Like most Filipinos, Masbateņos are a friendly and hospitable lot.
What's more, there's an undergoing (though delayed) big-scale waterworks project which hopefully will significantly improve the capital town's water supply and services. The power/energy supply is much better than when I was in high school.
Capital : Masbate City Area : 4,047.7 sq. km. Population : 653,852 (1995) Cities : 1 (capital town became a city in year 2000) No. of Towns : 21
I got the above details from another website. For more information about Masbate and to visit homepages owned by other Masbateņos, please go to the sites listed in The Masbate Links I have collected so far.
This page was created on February 15,1999 with subsequent minor changes.
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