The mixing of Luzon and Visayan culture goes on freely in the province of Masbate. The province lies south of the Bicol Peninsula. It is an archipelago composed of three major islands of Masbate, Burias and Ticao set in the inland sea of the Philippines. It is separated from Luzon by the Burias and Ticao Passes in the north, from Samar by the Samar Sea in the east, from Cebu and Panay by the Visayan Sea in the south and from Romblon by the Sibuyan Sea in the west. The topography of Masbate ranges from plains to rolling hills to mountains. There two climatic regions in Masbate. Ticao and Burias have no pronounced seasons while Masbate, the main island, is relatively dry from January to June and rainy the rest of the year.
Archeological diggings around the gold mines of Aroroy give evidence of flourishing settlements on the island of Masbate from the 14th up to 16th century. The existence of these settlements encouraged the Spaniards to explore the island, then called Masbad, under the direction of Mateo de Saz and Martin de Goiti, to gather supplies for the Spanish settlements in Cebu and Panay. The Spaniards found flourishing settlements on the island and in the neighboring islands of Ticao and Burias. It was from Masbate that the Spaniards eventually landed on Luzon. Masbate became part of the province of Ibalon, which later became the province of Albay. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the islands of Masbate, Ticao and Burias were heavily raided by Moro slavers. During the late 18th century, these islands formed way stations for slave raiders who gathered captured slaves in various points before transporting them to Mindanao and Sulu. The Moros were forced to abandon these stations at the turn of the 19th century. In 1837, thousands of settlers, many of them from surrounding provinces of Bicol, Samar, Cebu and Capiz migrated to Masbate lured by the news of gold in Aroroy. Masbate became a separate politico-military comandancia in 1846. In 1905, it was annexed to Sorsogon under Act No. 1413. However, on December 15, 1920, the island regained its status as a separate province through Act No. 2934.
People, Culture and the Arts
More than half of the people of Masbate speak Masbateño a language that is closely related to Hiligaynon and Capiznon. However, in various municipalities of the island, various other languages are spoken. In the vicinity of the towns of Cataingan, Palanas, and Dimasalang, most residents speak Waray or Sinamarleyte. In Pio Corpuz the people speak Cebuano while in Placer and in the west coast along coast of Mandaon, Hiligaynon is spoken. On Ticao and Burias, Bicol is spoken by the residents. The province of Masbate is known as cattle country. The cattle breed found on the island was taken from herds in India that have flourished in the benign climate of the island. The province is the second largest supplier of cattle that is brought to Manila for slaughter. This industry has inspired the establishment of a ‘Rodeo Filipino’ on the third week of April. This festival features a week-long tournament of bull riding, cattle wrestling, lassoing, calf casting, post driving, carabao racing and a host of other rodeo games. This unique observance is also accompanied by cattle raising contests, a trade fair and parades, much like the rodeos in the American West.