This year, I had the chance to witness and photograph one of the most colorful and most alive festivals in the Philippines, the MassKara Festival of Bacolod. For 2 days, October 22 and 23, I joined thousands of people in the streets of Bacolod, enjoyed the spectrum of colors, multitude of smiles and the beat! Yep, that song “tong-tong-tong pakitong-kitong” still lingers in my ears.
The MassKara Festival was first introduced in Bacolod City back in the 1980s to “add color and jollity” to the anniversary celebration of the city’s Charter Day. The smiling masks symbolizes the happy spirit of the people of Negros or the Negrenses. The term MassKara came from the Spanish words "mass" (crowd) and "cara" (faces) and was coined by painter, cartoonist and cultural artist Mr. Ely Santiago whose many art works show the different faces of the Negrenses during different economic periods.
The 37thMassKara Festival
Today, the Masskara Festival is one of the most popular festivals in the whole archipelago. The 20 day celebration every October became a venue for artists to showcase their work, for government to promote tourism, businesses to generate more profit and overall create an atmosphere for locals and foreigners to have good fun.
No wonder the city is on the list of CNN and National Geographic’s “12 must do things in October” and “12 best things in the Philippines.”
The good thing is, I get to share it with you exclusively through my lens.
The Biggest and Longest Running Festival
Before I arrived, I heard that this year was a bit different than previous years. This is mainly because the city government insisted on “giving back” the festival to the people by making most of major activities free for the public to enjoy.
Also, 2016 is so far the longest celebration of the said festival in the city’s history, running from October 1-23.
Due to the festivals popularity and the city’s new policy regarding fees, the city government expected 3 million locals and guests to attend the festival. This led the government to deploy 700 cops and soldiers help secure the city. Three festival sites were named: the Bacolod Public Plaza, the city’s Government Center and the Tourism Strip at Lacson Street.
Since October 1, carnivals, kiosks and beer garden were open to the public until the end of the festival.
The famed street dance competition (the very reason I came here) was limited to 15 entries while the schools category were set to three entries for Grade School and four entries for High School. It was still hands down an amazing show. The costume colors were spectacular, the music catchy and the dance was lively and on point as usual.
Brgy. Granada won Best Concept, Best Choreography and Street Dance Champion for 2016. Brgy. Tangub was first runner up followed by Brgy. Banago who also bagged Best in Costume and Best in Make Up awards.BrgyPahaconoy and Alangilan nabbed 4th and 5th places respectively.
Some of the other activities opened for the year were the MassKara Queen Pageant, Extreme MassKara, Nights of the Mardi Grass, MassKara by the Sea, MassKaraLand, MassKaravan, MassKara Float Competition and more.
This year’s MassKara Queen is Valerie Escamilla from John B. Lacson Colleges Foundation – Bacolod. She is on her fourth year as a Hotel and Restaurant Management student.
The fantasy inspired Nights of the Mardi Gras awarded Joshua dela Cruz with the grand cash price of P10, 000for his striking blue and silver, warrior costume.
The Photographs during the 2-day Street Dancing Competition (October 22-23)
The MassKara Festival has become a tradition in the Visayas region. City Mayor Leonardia believes that the people have definitely “embraced and nurtured the MassKara… it is more than just a major tourism attraction but a reflection of the Bacolodnons’ capacity to survive, zest for life and never ending spirit of optimism.”