IMPASUGONG, Bukidnon (MindaNews/22 September) – Elmer Dapiton glanced nervously at his teammates and waited for the signal to start chasing the bull.
The 29-year-old Dapiton and three of his teammates participated in the “karambola”, a team cattle-wrestling event of the rodeo in Impasugong town, Bukidnon last Saturday.
“I was nervous. I usually do every time,” said Dapiton, a veteran of the rodeo circuit in Bukidnon.
Dapiton explained that in the “karambola” event, teams compete with each other in tying down bulls in the shortest time possible.
Each bull is numbered and assigned to a particular team.
“Karambola” and other rodeo events like cattle-wrestling, rope and tie and bull riding can be traced to the working ranches of the Old West in the US.
But it was fiercely embraced here in Bukidnon where cattle farming flourished before World War 2.
In fact, it was in Impasugong where Teofisto Guingona Sr., who served as Acting Governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu during the US colonial era, established a ranch aside from the one in Wao in Lanao.
The Philippines is the only Southeast Asian country that holds rodeo events.
However, it’s only in the island province of Masbate where cowboys and cowgirls from all over gather for its rodeo event every month of June.
Constancio Maghanoy, who chaired the board of judges in the rodeo events last Saturday, said rodeo events are happening every month in Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte.
But it’s in Impasugong town with its bucolic setting of mountains that inspired the 2008 movie “Love me Again” starring Piolo Pascual and Angel Locsin that rodeo has become so popular.
“Rodeo has become a yearly circuit event where local cowboys and cowgirls travel to compete,” Maghanoy said.
He said the local government of Bukidnon passed a resolution naming rodeo as its provincial sport.
He said Impasugong, with its 642-hectare communal ranch, is the rodeo capital of Southern Philippines.
“The communal farm is where our young cowboys and cowgirls learn how to lasso and tie down calves,” he said.
He said that at present, schools offering agriculture courses like Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City and Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Musuan, Bukidnon, have their own rodeo teams.
He said these teams regularly compete in the yearly rodeo circuits in Northern Mindanao and Masbate City.
60-year-old Tony Guillermo, one of the judges last Saturday, said he was still a lanky student at tCMU when he joined its rodeo team.
“I was attracted by the cowboy culture. Dingo shoes, levi pants, dirty shirts,” he said.
As a rodeo competitor, Guillermo said he also experienced bruises in his body whenever he fell from a horse.
“Not a day that we do not eat dirt but I love this sport,” he said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)