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Published: November 3rd 2013
A Sea of Smiling Faces
The festival was conceived to dispel the gloom in the once thriving sugarland when world sugar prices dropped (making the wealthy "less wealthy"), resulting unemployment (farm hands lost jobs), and sinking of MV Don Juan which ferried many residents.
MassKara Festival 2013
Held every 3rd week of October, Bacolod City stands true to its slogan "City of Smiles". As many schools and barangays (local political units) within the city dance and sway to the beat with streetdancers wearing smiling masks and make an already festive occasion more carnival-ish. I brought my family here on this October weekend, with hopes that adult and teen tastes will converge in celebrating this most-awaited festival. A Mardi Gras of sorts, Philippine version. Resiliency characterizes the Filipino spirit and this character manifests itself in full splendor here. After all, Masskara was conceived at a time when Bacolodnons, or Bacoleños, or Bacolodians -- whatever and however the residents are called -- were struggling with near despair over the decline in world sugar prices, aggravated by the sinking of MV Don Juan where many locals perished.
More Than Streetdancing
Typically a cheerful and vibrant group, the people of Bacolod launched the MassKara Fest not too long ago to dispel the then pervading atmosphere of gloom. And resilient to the core, the concept worked to instill the cheer and colors of joy and celebration.
"Holi" But Not Really. Aside from
This group won in the school category. Streetdancing on the day of our arrival, a Friday. Oct 18, 2013.
the streetdancing competitions, Masskara also filled out the weekend calendar with street parties and fireworks. While very Catholic in religion, other events were inspired by the Hindu "holi" festival. Locally dubbed the "Paint Party", this street event welcomed everyone ready to hop and jump to the beat provided by the bands on a makeshift stage. Be warned though to wear something you won't mind trashing later. The friendly Ilonggos will convince you to get your face, arms, legs or any exposed body part to be painted. When we got here, the street party was well on its way. Music blared from all corners and the grounds were covered with green, yellow and reddish powder. My teenage "apo" (grandchild) enjoyed it so much while her grandma felt awkward in a sea of smiling painted faces. One teen was eager to smear paint on apo's forehead, cheeks, arms. Turning to me, she gave one look and shyly smeared some green powder on my right arm.
Lacson Street: The Tourism Loop
We booked a room in Avenue Suites along the "Tourism Loop" where many events and street parties were held. Lacson Street counts both old and new
School Category Contenders
Colors galore. What's more.... These kids welcomed spectators --- as in they were just as eager to pose for photos with the tourists!
hotel establishments like L' Fisher Hotel, Chalet and Avenue Suites, along with famous eating places like Bob's, Bar 21, Cafe Bob's, Pendy's to name a few. We enjoyed the revelry, the street dancing and partying as much as the food tripping. Bacolod or Ilonggo cuisine is famous for its special chicken barbecue locally known as "Chicken Inasal", vegetable rolls called "lumpia ubod", a soupy dish called "Chicken Binakol", and various desserts and sugary delicacies like "piaya", butterscotch cookies, "biscocho", etc. After all, this was the center of the sugar industry in the country. If you're visiting the country, you may wish to time it around the 3rd week of October. You may google "Masskara" for the schedule and program of activities. Bacolod City is just slightly over an hour via plane from Manila. As with many festivities though, one needs to make advance arrangements for lodgings to save money. Otherwise, be prepared to pay double or triple the normal room rates.
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