The annual holding of the Masskara Festival in Bacolod, Philippines has a history to account for. It is not like an ordinary street festivity that is usually celebrated by individual parishes in each town and city in this tropical country.
More than an ordinary festivity
The Masskara Festival was conceptualized to answer a deeper need among suffering families in the Negros province during the 80’s. Unlike ordinary fiestas in most parts of the country held in honor of their respective patron saints, the Masskara Festival is focused on the celebration for the people, to mark their milestones for conquering the hardships that they had undergone from economic crisis and tragedy.
Negros province is known as the sugarcane capital in the Philippines. Majority of the families in the province count on the sugar industry for their source of livelihood. However the industry suffered a serious fall in the early 80s when the price of sugar plummeted because of the entry of sugar substitutes in the United States such as corn syrup. And as if this was not enough to bring down an otherwise thriving province, a sea tragedy occurred on April 22 , 1980 when an inter-island vessel named MV Don Juan that sailed with many Negros people aboard, sank due to a collision with a tanker. Many families lost their loved ones and relatives and a staggering number of 700 victims lost their lives.
City of Smiles
Filipinos are noted for being always cheerful. They find many ways to be happy and to lift their spirits up even in the face of tragedy. Despite the successive unfortunate events, Bacolod City officials, artists and civic organizations came together and thought of a way to lift the city up and cheer up the residents who were mourning the death of family members and loss of livelihood. At the same time, the organizers thought, the festival is a way to launch the city to tourism that could eventually bring income to help the residents successfully overcome their plight.
The main feature of the Masskara Festival is the street dancing festivity in which groups of dancers wearing happy masks and colorful costumes dance and gyrate along the city streets to Latin music beat. The term “Masskara was thought of by Ely Santiago, an artist. The word “mass” refers to a “multitude of people” and “cara” is a Spanish word meaning “face”. And true to the meaning of the word, during the festival, throngs of people – both spectators and participants all wear masks, resulting to a “multitude of people in various happy masks covering their faces”.
Today, the Masskara Festival has evolved to a more pompous affair with the street dance competition being participated in by schools and barangays (local government units). Other activities highlight the event such as the selection of MassKara Queen, drum and bugle corps contests, carnivals, food festivals, sports league events, concerts as well as a trade fair showcasing agricultural and garden products. More special events are also organized by whoever is appointed as chairman of the ad-hoc committee that manages the annual celebration.
2013 Festivities and Bacolod City Diamond Charter Anniversary
On the 18th and on to the 20th of October 2013, this year’s Masskara Festival is highlighted by the commemoration of Bacolod City’s 75th Charter Anniversary or what is known as Diamond Jubilee. More grandiose celebrations are anticipated with a greater number of onlookers and tourists expected to take part in this monumental annual party in Bacolod, the City of Smiles.