What's to look forward every month of October in Bacolod City? The MASSKARA Festival!
Kari na sa Bacolod kag magsinadya kita sa MassKara! (Come to Bacolod and let's have fun at MassKara Festival!)
Every month of October in Bacolod, the City is celebrating the MassKara Festival. MassKara Festival is one of the famous and colorful festivals in the Philippines.
Bacolod City is the capital of Negros Occidental and is the "Sugar Capital" of the Philippines. It is the biggest and highly urbanized city in the island of Negros, the fourth biggest island in the Philippine archipelago. Bacolod is also known as the "City of Smiles" because of the sweet smiling faces of Negrenses.
Could say that MassKara Festival is the happiest festival in the country, but knowing its history is also to learn more of the drive and happy disposition of the Negrenses.
MassKara is coined from two words: Mass, which means "many, or multitude," and Kara, a Spanish word for "face," thus MassKara is a mass or multitude of smiling faces.
It rose from the gloom that enveloped the city in the 1980s, a period of tragedy and economic dislocation.
During this period, the prices of sugar in the world market were at an all-time low. Negrenses, including Bacoleños, were in a crisis as the province only relied in the sugar industry then.
The depression was further aggravated when passenger vessel Don Juan sank on April 22, where an estimated 700 Negrenses, including prominent families, perished.
In the midst of these tragic events, the city's artists, local government and civic groups decided to hold a festival of smiles, because the city at that time was also known as the City of Smiles.
They reasoned that a festival was also a good opportunity to pull the residents out of the pervasive gloomy atmosphere. The initial festival was therefore, a declaration by the people of the city that no matter how tough and bad the times were, Bacolod City is going to pull through, survive, and in the end, triumph.
This act of collectively fighting back at life's troubles is embodied in the MassKara Streetdancing lyrics: Sige lang... sige na! Bacolod bato kita! (It's okay... it's alright! No matter what adversity, Bacolod fights on!)
For Bacoleños, MassKara is a celebration and expression of thanks for the abundance of blessings life brings them.
Every year, the festival theme changes but one thing for sure is that it focuses on the transformation of Bacolod! MassKara is a celebration of everything the Bacolod community has achieved and worth celebrating.
What to Do and Expect
• Expect (heavy) traffic and re-routing of jeepneys. Lacson Street, also known as the tourism strip every MassKara Festival is being closed for the Electric MassKara Streetdancing Competition. This year it will be on October 14-15. This is where you can walk freely on the streets, drink beer, eat, dance and celebrate with live bands on the big stages setup by different establishment in Lacson. A happy street party!
• If you're not from Bacolod and you plan to go and celebrate the City's MassKara Festival, it is best that you plan ahead especially if you'll be staying in a hotel. Hotels in Bacolod even pension houses are already fully booked a month during the date of the festival highlights which is the street dancing competition. Next option is to stay at your friends' house if you know someone in Bacolod and haven't booked a hotel yet.
• Ride a jeepney, not a taxi! You'll save more especially if you're stuck in traffic.
• Since it's the start of the rainy season, expect and be ready to get wet if you want to watch the streetdancing competition live on the streets. Bring an umbrella with you!
• Wear your most comfortable footwear. You'll be taking a very long walk (expect kilometers).
• Beware of pickpockets!
How to Get There
From Manila, you can fly to Bacolod (Php2500++, round trip, 45 minutes). From Bacolod-Silay Airport, you can take a shuttle (Php75-100 per head), or a cab and ask to be dropped off to your hotel.
PHOTOS: MassKara Festival 2010. Thank you to Arthur Ang of CCN (Camera Club of Negros), Dustin Mijares for the photos of the MassKara Festival 2010 and PIO-Bacolod for the It's Showtime MassKara Baacolod.
Additional source: www.themasskarafestival.com, www.bacolodcity.gov.ph