Thursday, October 13, 2016

Masskara Festival, Color and Smiles All Around

I don’t know what got into me when I booked this solo trip to Bacolod for Masskara Festival of 2011. Maybe it was the rampant advertisement of cheap airfares that made me hit that ‘Book Now’ button. Maybe it was craving to see more festivals after just experiencing the Pahiyas Festival of Quezon the same year and that pushed me to see at least one more before the year ended. Or maybe it was the plain feeling of wanderlust, the need to see and experience more and escape for a while from the pollution of the city and stress from work.


I actually had some trouble looking for a flight direct to Bacolod so I did a workaround of booking Manila-Iloilo then Bacolod-Manila. I have been to Iloilo City a couple of times to visit relatives, but I still never got used to commuting around there, probably because I was with relatives all the time and they were in charge of where we go. Anyway, with my broken Ilonggo, I managed to catch a ferry ride to Bacolod. I was couchsurfing during my entire stay at the city. I have heard so much buzz about this new way of meeting locals that I admit, I really got intrigued. So I took this as an opportunity to finally try it out.

night parade around Lacson Street
the giant puppets called “gigantes y cabezudos”
starting the parade with a bang!

Bacolod's MassKara Festival is one of the country's most vibrant celebrations, however, its roots come from tragedies that were experienced by the Negrenses during the 1980s. The city went through an economic slump due to the decline of prices in sugar, which is Negros' top agricultural produce. On the same year, a vessel headed for Tacloban City sank, taking with it 700 lives including some of the well-known people from Bacolod. These tragic events triggered the local government and artists to create the festival that we now know as MassKara. It's amazing how Filipinos can easily rise amidst catastrophes like this and even see something good out of it.

masskara bacolod

negros festival

I actually did no research before going on this trip so I had no absolutely no idea what the schedule of the parade was and if there were other happenings during the entire duration of the festival. Good thing, our host showed us around to where the action was happening so I didn’t miss anything!

masskara parade

masskara performance

Even though the city has gracefully passed by its dark years, the festival is still celebrated annually on the third weekend of October. And do you know that the festival is actually called MassKara instead of Maskara festival? I had no idea this was the case until I arrived at Bacolod and saw tarpaulins about the festival that I noticed the spelling was a bit different. Prior to my arrival, I have always thought it to be ‘Maskara Festival’ since most of the street dance participants wear a maskara, the Filipino word for “mask.” However, the MassKara actually forms a deeper meaning, coming from the English word mass, of large quantity and size, and Spanish word cara which means face. Just the perfect words to describe an event that showcases the smiles and beautiful faces of the Negrenses.

street performer
uma Alden Richards smile despite the heat and massive crowd!
interesting floats from different barangays
costume colorful
the playful pabebe pose

Most tourists like myself come here for the festival’s exciting street dance competition, wherein representatives from different barangays compete. Everyone looks forward to the upbeat music, extravagant and carefully designed costumes and of course, the unique smiling masks worn by almost all the street dancers that surely bring light to the streets of Bacolod.

what a costume! I hope they were still able to use the walis after the parade

MassKara was the perfect time to practice taking pictures as well. I really love seeing bright colors on my camera’s screen so I really had a blast despite the strong heat of the sun and massive crowd. However I noticed that there were a lot of people who were able to get a photographer’s pass, I didn’t know how to get one so I was stuck at the sidelines. I was also using a 50mm prime lens at that time which gave me a very hard time since I only had very limited space to work with but I think I still got few good shots on my set.

It’s no wonder the city takes pride for being known as the “City of Smiles”, because it really shows, especially during their MassKara Festival. You will feel the infectious positive vibe and upbeat energy of the locals of Bacolod. I’d really recommend this festival if you enjoy street parties and want to get to know more about the Filipino culture.

perfect ending!

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