Exploring Masbate, Philippines: A 3-Day Budget Travel Challenge

Exploring Masbate, Philippines: A 3-Day Budget Travel Challenge

Tell me: would you agree to do a spontaneous trip to an unknown destination wherein you will only know where it would be, 4 hours before the flight? Well… if you ask me, I would — and I did! (And I bet you guys would do it too!) ~ Masbate ~

This budget / backpacker travel challenge was actually handed out to me by Cebu Pacific Air as a “blogger’s version” of their Juan for Fun campaign for this year.

What is “Juan for Fun”?
It is an annual contest held by Cebu Pacific Air. For this year (this is their 6th year!), they are looking for a team of 3 who are college students or fresh graduates in the Philippines aged 18 to 23 to come up with a simple video that answers the question: ‘How can I share the FUN in Juan for Fun?

The deadline for the contest is on May 15 and the winners will receive an epic 1-year FREE travel pass! (For more info, check out their Facebook page.)

Doesn’t that sound exciting?!
(Oh how I wish this existed when I was still in OR fresh out of college.)

But naturally, my challenge was different since I was only given a small ‘taste’ of the actual experience that the winning team would go through. So, what exactly did they make me do?

To start off, I had to go alone to this secret destination for 3 days with just Php 10,000 pocket money (or around $200~) . Once I arrive there, I will have to arrange everything on my own — accommodation, tours, food, activity, etc. — whilst making it a point to complete some challenges along the way.

I haven’t done a strict budget travel spree in a long while now; but for sure, I found the pocket money more than enough. Plus, I do know that it’s possible for me to spend 40% of that pocket money (or even lower!)

So yeah… BRING IT ON!

Spoiler: In the end, due to sudden events and new-found friends, I spent a total of Php 2,040 only for 3 days! Are you curious about how this happened? Do read on below to find out.

All in all, this was an incredibly fun concept and I was more than excited to jumpstart it all!
.

Juan for Fun: Masbate Exploration

» DAY #1 «

April 18, Morning: When the clock struck 4AM, I received my flight tickets via email and of course, it indicated the destination that I will be going to. As the title of this post suggests, Cebu Pacific Air picked Masbate for me.

Juan for Fun

Confession time. I had no idea what Masbate is known for nor where it is located. Rest assured, this is one of the reasons why I travel: to slowly correct my geographic knowledge, haha.

I woke up at around 6AM (after I was told a day before to come to the airport at 7AM for my flight), therefore technically, I didn’t have much time to research about Masbate at all. Once I arrived at the airport, the Cebu Pacific Air team handed me some goodies and an “Adventure Passport” which indicated the challenges that I had to do for my trip.

  • Try a local delicacy.
  • Go for a swim.
  • Ride 4 different public transportation vehicles.
  • Take a creative sunset shot.

All were perfectly doable! In fact, these were things that I already planned on doing or things that I would naturally have to do. Still and the same, these challenges surely added more flair to my trip and I was more than ready to start ticking them off!

Arrival, Noon: While I was on the plane, I had to wonder why it seemed like all the seats were packed… I mean, I would expect this phenomena from such a famous place like Boracay for example; but for Masbate, I had to rack my brain and wonder why I hadn’t heard of this place if it had that much passengers per flight!

I got the answer to my question 1 hour later as I landed at Masbate’s airport and glimpsed at the posters and locals who were clad in cowboy-esque clothing: Rodeo Festival.

Rodeo Festival

This was the city’s biggest festival and I happened to have arrived during the height of it all (given that it was the start of the competitions and the official opening)!

To keep the record straight, this didn’t seem to be the intention of Cebu Pacific Air because I picked the dates for the trip (as per my availability).

As I felt the excitement in the air, I started to have a bad feeling about my trip. My worries were confirmed once I visited the city’s tourism office: they told me that as much as they wanted to help me map out my itinerary, hotels were fully booked because of the festival. PLUS, all tours are also packed already with no available boats nor guides left!

Nevertheless, I wasn’t one to be disheartened. I had my worries but I knew I had to ‘soldier on’. And so, I hailed a tricycle and headed off to a nearby hotel to try my chances.

Sorry, we have no rooms left!”, the receptionist told me apologetically.

The more budget accommodations were of course a no-go. But I still wasn’t going to give up! Before moving on to the next hotel, I stayed a bit at the lobby of Ross Hotel as I started asking the people there about other places that I can try.

It was in that moment when someone behind me quipped, “They don’t have a room for you…?

I turned around and glanced upon a lady clad in a dress and a cowboy hat. I had a feeling that she was going to ‘save’ me — and she did!

To cut the story short, her name was Airis and she offered me a reserved room of her friend at Rendezvous Hotel who couldn’t make it to Masbate. Imagine what luck I had when it just so happened that she booked the room for 2 nights! She warned me that the hotel was old yet it was worth Php 1,300 per night because of the festival season; but I really didn’t mind. It was to be expected anyway, and I was already more than happy to have a place where I can sleep in later on in the night.

We continued to exchange info and numbers and while I was riding the tricycle to my hotel, I found out  via texts from her that:

  • She was a Secretary to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in Masbate.
  • She had already paid P1,000 deposit for my room, so I only had to pay Php 1,600.
  • I can correspond with the hotel owner and arrange a tour because he was a dear friend of hers.

Mind you, she didn’t know yet that I was a travel blogger, so she wasn’t definitely doing this for promotion nor appearances and whatnot: she was doing this simply out of her innate kindness.

Needless to say, my welcome in Masbate started off great!

Activities, Afternoon till Night: Cookie, the hotel owner of Rendezvous Hotel, managed to arrange a boat for me on the next day to a nearby island called as Buntod Sandbar (which was also a reef sanctuary). He suggested that I just spend the rest of the day enjoying the festivities of the Rodeo festival and that’s exactly what I did!

I walked through the Masbate’s center feeling a bit out of place as well as a bit enthralled as I watched all the people around me in full cowboy and cowgirl regalia.

The Rodeo Festival in Masbate City is an annual event that happens in the month of April and it comprises a series of events and competitions that aim to showcase the work of ranch workers. This is to ultimately bring awareness to the cattle-raising industry in the province.

Rodeo ArenaRodeo MasbateRodeoHorseback Riding

Growing up in Batanes, I am no stranger to how cattle are raised BUT this was the first time that I ever saw a rodeo show. As I sat at the bleachers of the Grand Rodeo Arena, I can’t help but feel sorry for the cows and I even started to be conflicted at why I was watching the whole show… After all, I really don’t want to support affairs that derive entertainment out of animals from actions that could hurt them.

However, I was assured that the whole affair was simply a showcase of typical animal-handling skills done by people in a ranch. The officials also continually ensure that no animals will get hurt or be injured from the events because they strive to maintain animal welfare and safety. At the very core, they simply want to promote Masbate as the home of Philippine Rodeo as well as the best source of organic beef.

With all that said and done, I leave it up to you to decide if you want to attend and watch this famous festivity in Masbate.

The show aside, it was surreal to walk around the arena’s shopping area as well as the rest of the city’s spaces because I truly felt as if I was transported to a western country (what with all the cowboys and cowgirls that were all over the place!).

Come night time, there was a stage set up with surrounding food stalls and it was here that I had my first local seafood dish whilst I watched a music concert and a fireworks show.

Masbate Concert Masbate Food.

» DAY #2 «

April 19, Whole Day: I initially wanted to witness the ‘cattle drive‘ — an event that reenacts the practice of the Masbate ranchers whenever they bring herds and herds of cattle to the port in the olden days. However… I heard the time wrongly so unfortunately, I didn’t catch it on time.

Anyhow, since I was already at the center, I decided to stroll the streets and see more sights. One interesting landmark I found was the San Antonio de Padua Cathedral which had a beautiful altar and pulpit!

I eventually rode a tricycle back to the hotel after I had my fun walking through the center (so that I could make it in time for my boat ride to Buntod Sandbar).

First though: lunch! The locals at the hotel vehemently made me try one of their local dishes called as “sinagol” when I asked for their suggested dish. I asked the content and they told me that it was made of shark meat mixed with coconut cream and vegetables. I was certainly apprehensive at first… but after my first bite I really felt like asking for more! I guess you can never go wrong with dishes that have coconut mixed in.

Sinagol

After I had my fill, the staff at the hotel started to look for a group that I could join to Buntod and they ended up finding a troop who still had one slot left for their boat trip. After introductions were done with, I found out that my companions that day were all workmates who came all the way from Naga City for the Rodeo festival.

They were incredibly friendly and accommodating that by the end of the day, they did NOT allow me to pay for the boat nor for the snacks that they brought! I surely felt welcome and well taken care of. I guess they were fascinated about the fact that I was traveling alone, so they took it upon themselves to look after me somewhat.

People from my Travels

Meanwhile, Buntod Sandbar was as picturesque as I thought it would be! According to the currents and the tide, its shape and size can change. Furthermore, the young mangrove plantation at one of it’s tip was seemingly a haven to some baby black tip sharks. I didn’t manage to witness one but they’re said to pass through the roots during high tide; rest assured, they’re creatures that you shouldn’t be scared of.

As a marine sanctuary, you can also snorkel to the nearby reefs but it helps to note that you need to watch out for sea urchins because they can be quite prevalent on those parts.

Buntod Sandbar BuntodMangrove Philippines BeachSunset

As the clock struck 6PM, we slowly made our way back to the main shore on our boat while we soaked in the great sunset views on the horizon. Before I bid goodbye to my companions, they swiftly extended a dinner invitation to me and it was easy to say ‘yes’. What followed for the rest of the night was a hearty dinner with newfound friends and a night of fun back to the rodeo arena!
.

» DAY #3 «

April 20, Morning: “You’re never really alone when you travel. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you…”

Cebu Pacific

I may have traveled to Masbate alone but NOT once did I feel that I was by myself. Going by what I have experienced during my brief stay, I was always surrounded by kind locals and non-locals alike who were more than willing to help me out and make me feel welcome.

And although my trip was brief, this was undoubtedly a memorable trip for me and you bet that I will be coming back for more because the province of Masbate is HUGE and there’s definitely a handful more of islands, forests, hikes, etc. for me to conquer.
.

» JUAN FOR FUN CHALLENGE RECAP «

  • Try a local delicacy: Seafood, sinagol, and carmelado
  • Go for a swim: At Buntod Sandbar
  • Ride 4 different public transport: Habal-habal, tricycle, boat, and service van
  • Take a creative sunset photo: At Buntod
    .

» ITINERARY BREAKDOWN WITH COSTS

DAY 1

• 12:00 = Arrival at Masbate Airport
• 1:00 = Visited the Masbate Tourism Office ~ FREE habal-habal ride from a kind local
• 1:30 = Tricycle ride to the center to look for hotels ~ Php 10
• 2:00 =Tricycle ride to Rendezvous Hotel ~ Php 10
• 2:00 = Day 1 payment for hotel with breakfast ~ Php 1,300
• 3:00 = Tricycle to Grand Rodeo Arena ~ Php 10
• 3:15 = Entrance fee to rodeo show ~ Php 20
• 5:00 = Entrance fee to rodeo’s night show ~ Php 50
• 7:00 = Dinner ~ Php 105
• 9:00 = Tricycle back to hotel ~ Php 10

DAY 2

• 8:00 = 2nd day’s hotel fee balance ~ Php 300
• 8:00 = Tricycle to city ~ Php 10
• 10:00 = Tricycle back to hotel to catch boat to Buntod Sandbar ~ Php 10
• 11:00 = Early lunch ~ Php 85
• 12:00 = Boat to Buntod Sandbar ~ FREE (my boat companions paid for my share, supposedly Php 100)
• 7:00 = Dinner ~ FREE (courtesy of my boat companions)
• 9:00 = Drive to Grand Rodeo Arena via service van ~ FREE (courtesy of my boat companions)
• 9:30 = Snacks ~ Php 10

DAY 3

• 8:30AM = Tricycle from hotel to city center ~ Php 10
• 9:00 = Airport terminal fee ~ Php 100

TOTAL TRIP COST: Php 2,040 only
.

» PRE-TRAVEL GUIDE

Where to get the best flight deals to Masbate, Philippines?
Where else but Cebu Pacific Air! On average, it costs about Php 3,000 ($60) one way to Masbate; but if you grab one of the airlines’ regular promo schemes, your tickets could even cost less than a dollar.

What hotel to stay in Masbate City center?
Check out GV Hotel Masbate, Ross Hotel, or Rendezvous Resort and Hotel. The city itself has a decent amount of hotels, but if you go during Rodeo Festival, walk-ins to hotels would be quite difficult so make sure to book way in advance should you want to attend this festivity.

*The area around GV Hotel Masbate and Ross Hotel is an ideal place to stay in since it’s close to restaurants, stores, banks, and ATMs.

How to get around?
Tricycle rides within the city starts at Php 8.00 only and there are also habal-habal (motorcycle) drivers. For longer distances, there are buses, jeepneys, mini vans, and boats to take you.

TIP: If you want help in mapping out your itinerary, feel free to visit Masbate’s tourism office at the Masbate Social Center area. You can also contact them beforehand via phone (09391561961), email (masbateprovincialtourism@gmail.com) or Facebook.

.

Overall

Masbate

Cebu Pacific Air challenged me to find adventure in a sudden travel spree… and by the end of that brief stint, beyond the adventure and the wonderful sights that I’ve found, I have also reaffirmed the fact that the world truly is full of kind and amazing people.

So what are you waiting for? Go and create your own life-changing memories, stories, and escapades — and what better way to do that than to join this year’s Juan for Fun campaign, right?

How about you?

  • What do you think of Masbate?
  • Would you like to join the Juan for Fun challenge? Why or why not?
  • Have you flown Cebu Pacific before? How was it?

Did you like this article? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube and be notified about my newest posts and updates!

18 comments

  1. Beautiful Place and Amazing way to describe all the things one by one. Beautiful Pictures. Great Read. As an traveler, it is very important to share your thoughts and interesting facts of your trips with others that will encourage other. You have done great job!

    Thanks for Sharing!

    Reply
  2. Amazing, the way you represent all the things in your blog is great and I just love it.

    Reply
    1. Thank you! I'm very happy to hear that :)

      Reply
  3. Beautiful blog,nice for travell guide.

    Reply
  4. Amazing photos and experiences! I have read about the challenge by Cebu Pacific but thought I couldn't pass on the qualifications/requirements. It's great to see the beauty of Masbate since I haven't heard or seen anything about it.

    Reply
    1. If you're a fresh graduate or still a student, you can join :D Otherwise, feel free to let your other friends know. It was a really fun trip!

      Reply
  5. Yes, I'll take a trip to a unknown destination in a heart beat! Masbate, Philippines looks amazing and it looks like you had a blast, the music concert and food sounds amazing too. The blue ocean water is so beautiful, I'll pass on seeing the black tip sharks, no matter how small I know they would scare me!!

    Reply
    1. I know what you mean, but they could be quite a sight ;)

      Reply
  6. Aha! The Rodeo Festival. I wouldn't have expected it to be busy either, considering I'd never heard of Masbate! I can't believe you ate shark!
    And to answer your question, I probably would go.. even not knowing where I was headed until the last minute.

    Reply
    1. I'm glad you're as adventurous as I am! :D

      Reply
  7. What a getaway! Everything from rodeos .. to concerts .. to clear blue waters and sandy beaches. I think you've managed to do it all. We'll have to add this spot to our destinations wish list!

    Reply
    1. Let me know should you ever come to visit :D

      Reply
  8. Looks like you had a lot of fun doing this challenge! Masbate looks beautiful! Even though I'm a bit on the conservative side, I think a trip like this would help broaden my horizons!

    Reply
    1. That's for sure, Brandon!

      Reply
  9. I had no idea this place existed. I could absolutely live on those beaches and eat my way through the town.

    Reply
    1. Do it, Cheryl! ;)

      Reply
  10. This place looks like a paradise. Beautiful beaches, delicious local eats and friends to enjoy it all with! I have never heard of Masbate, Philippines before, but it's absolutely gorgeous. Your travel blog is amazing and I'm glad that I ran across it!

    Reply
    1. Aww, I'm happy to hear that! I hope you'd stick around!

      Reply

Leave a reply