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The province of Masbate (“Maz-bah-tee”) lies in the centre of the Philippine archipelago. It is comprised of the island of Masbate with its small capital city of the same name, two secondary islands called Burias and Ticao, and numerous smaller islands. There are a number of exceptional beaches on Masbate, such as Bituon and immense caves in thick jungle such as Kalanay and Batongan. It’s the infrastructure that’s lacking. This is slowly changing, however, with an increased emphasis on tourism and developments such as an anticipated new ferry route to Manila via Caticlan (and therefore Boracay).

The position of Masbate at the heart of the Philippines leads to some complicated cultural blending, with a mix of languages including Cebuano, Bicolano, Waray, Ilonggo, Tagalog and Masbateño. The province has long had something of a reputation for violence, with an image throughout the Philippines as a lawless “Wild East” frontier province. Like many isolated areas of the archipelago, Masbate does seem a law unto itself and political killings are certainly not unheard of, but its reputation for goonish violence is mostly unfair. In any case it is highly unlikely that tourists will feel any less safe here than in most other parts of the country.

The Wild East moniker is, however, apt for reasons other than lawlessness: Masbate ranks second only to the landlocked province of Bukidnon, Mindanao, in raising cattle. There’s even an annual rodeo in Masbate City in May, where cowpokes do battle for big prize money. Farming is the second most common form of livelihood, fishing the third.

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