I was enjoying lying on the bow of the large outrigger boat coming from Pasacao Port in Camarines Sur to our destination of San Pascual in Burias Island, Masbate. I wanted to enjoy the fresh sea air and not be bounded inside the tarp-covered windows of the shaded boat seats behind me. The splash from the ride didn’t reach the bow that much so I enjoyed the sea view and conversation with the local guide in the area. Suddenly there was a rustle of activity that led me to see what was happening. We were approaching Burias Island already and just in time when the afternoon light came in, spreading its golden hue over the high cliffs bounding the bay where the municipality of San Pascual is nestled in.
San Pascual Masbate
I’ve heard and read good things about Masbate but never really found time to explore the place. Cowboys, cowgirls, Marlboro country, and manta rays were my idea of Masbate. My trip to San Pascual to cover their Isla Rancho festival (which happens every 2nd week of May) this year gave me the opportunity to discover the attractions in this part of the province. San Pascual is in the northern part of Burias Island, one of the three major islands of the province aside from Masbate island proper and Ticao Island.
San Pascual is located 27 nautical miles from Pasacao, Camarines Sur. It’s about 2 hours boat ride, making Burias Island probably the most accessible of the three islands coming from Manila or Naga City. There are 22 barangays scattered along the 24,632 hectares of craggy hills and open plains. The main livelihood of the region is livestock, fishing, copra, and corn production. Tourism is a fairly new endeavor the municipality is getting into. Though the infrastructure is still somewhat limited, the potential for developing the place is no doubt abundant. The beauty of going there now is there are still few tourists in the area so you could enjoy the following things and discover San Pascual yourself.
5 Things to Do in San Pascual
1) Go Island Hopping
With a 122.3 km coastline and a fishing ground of 168,000 hectares, San Pascual has exuberant marine life enough for both local livelihood and preservation for tourism appreciation. Five islands all boasting crystal waters can be explored: Tinalisayan Islet (1.5 nautical miles) has a short but fine white sand beach and a rustic scenic hill overlooking the 80-meter-long sandbar nearby. The large Busing Island (1.7 nautical miles) is a large island protecting the San Pascual Bay and has its share of winding white sand beaches. Be mesmerized by Animasola Island (2.1 nautical miles) rock formations weathered by time and the elements. Spend a night or more at the native but comfy accommodations of the twin Sombrero Islands (4.5 nautical miles) and enjoy the natural white crushed coral beach and observe local fishers on their daily chores. The farthest Dapa Island (5.3 nautical miles) is said to have a cave home to a number of sea snakes.
2) Visit the Ranches
Burias Island didn’t get the title “Isla Rancho (Island of Ranches)” for nothing. San Pascual alone has 15 ranches and three of the most expansive are accessible by tryke or motorbike from town. Watch the lasso work and how they put down cattle for tagging. Yes, this is how they work.
3) Appreciate the Town’s Heritage and Local Life
Did you know that Masbate was the seat of Christianity in the Bicol region which began in 1569? That is why there’s a strong presence of Spanish influence in the region including San Pascual. The road network in San Pascual is simple and straightforward – one leading to the pier and the other national highway within the island. Along the road are a number of Ancestral Houses and heritage structures.
Start at the Municipal Building and admire the vintage edifice built in 1911. The San Pascual Old Church nearby also has one of the oldest church edifices in the country built in veneration to St Pascal Baylon. The road towards the school has a line of ancestral houses built in the 1930s. Aside from the hardwood materials like hamorawon, dungon, and kansayud trees, some keep their capiz shells. Knock and kindly ask if you can see the houses and find a few antique items inside. People of San Pascual are accommodating I was amused with a talk with a certain Narciso who does part-time tailoring work inside his general merchandise store. Now that’s what I call a sari-sari store.
4) Visit the Home of 80,000 Swiftlets
An amusing oddity it may seem but couple Eddie and Dina Espares don’t seem to mind living in a house with more than 80,000 swiftlets living in their basement. Visit the Balinsasayaw house and hear their story of how a pair of swiftlets ballooned into thousands of fluttering feathery friends.
5) Do a Mangrove River Cruise
San Pascual has vast mangrove plantations and in Mapanique, cruise through the heart of nature at Mapanique River. Take the 22-winding turn leading to the sea. Keep your eyes open for wild ducks, exotic birds, and giant fruit bats hanging or flapping by giant calumpang trees. If you are adventurous enough, there’s also a trail leading to a bat sanctuary.
I’m sure there are more things to do in San Pascual. We were told there are a couple of caves to explore too like the Ki Romero Hidden Cave and the Iniwaran Cave. For delicacy, do try to find the Lechon Kalabaw.
How to go to San Pascual, Burias Island, Masbate
The advantage of San Pascual, Burias Island from the rest of Masbate is its close proximity to Naga City, Camarines Sur.
- Manila to Naga City by Bus: Ride any Naga City-bound bus at Cubao Terminal. Plenty of choices from Philtranco, DLTB, Isarog Lines, etc). In Pasay, there’s Philtranco and DLTB. Travel time is 8–9 hours with fares starting from Php 700 to 1100.
- Manila to Naga City by Plane: There are daily flights to Naga City via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. Travel time is 45 minutes from Manila. Naga City Airport is near the town of Pili.
- Naga City to Pasacao Port: Make your way to North Bound Terminal and take a jeep or VAN heading to Pasacao. Travel time is 45 minutes to an hour. From Pasacao, hire a tryke to take you to the port.
- From Pasacao Port to San Pascual: There are several boats that leave Pasacao Port for San Pascual daily usually from 7:00 am, 10:00 am, and 2:00 pm. Travel time is 2 hours and a fare of Php 150. From San Pascual to Pasacao Port, there are boats that leave at 5:30 am, 8:00 am, and 9:20 am.
For more info and assistance on San Pascual, contact Cecile of the San Pascual Tourism Office at 09199112270
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.