It’s the time of the year again, when the streets of Bacolod City will once again come alive with the colors and sounds of people celebrating the Masskara Festival.
With the theme “Rediscover and Celebrate Bacolod,” 2013’s festival was memorable, as it also celebrated Bacolod’s 75th year as a chartered city.
The Masskara, from the word “mass” which means “many people” and “kara” meaning “face,” is one of the most awaited festivals in the Philippines, and one of the most attended, with thousands of local and foreign tourists alike observing it every year. In 2014, it will be celebrated from October 17 to 19.
Masskara started in 1980, when Bacolod was hit by low sugar prices and the tragic sinking of a ship that killed around 700 Negrenses. Faced by the double crisis, the city decided to hold a festival of smiles, to signify the people’s determination to pull through the tragedy and survive. Bacolod’s dark times have passed, but the celebration continues year after year.
I observed the Masskara in 2011 with Couchsurfing and travel blogger friends, and we had a spanking good time observing the streetdancing, going around the city, and eating our way one dish at a time.
Masskara is held every 3rd week of October and is characterized by groups of streetdancers wearing colorful costumes, elaborate headdresses, and smiling masks.
If you like taking photographs, the whole city becomes a photographer’s dream, with colors bursting out from every shot. Most of my shots were blurred though (#fail).
The highlights for this year are the streetdancing competitions on Friday, October 18 (School Category) and Sunday, October 20 (Barangay Category). However, a lot of other activities are held throughout the city, from sports tournaments and dance competitions, to celebrity variety shows, food festivals, and beauty pageants.
If you’re observing this year’s festival, here are some things you can do to enjoy the event more.
- Find out in advance where your hotel is in relation to the activities. (I surfed with a Couchsurfing member. Thanks Marian!) You would want to be at the venue early, so you can get a good observation spot. Among the events you shouldn’t miss are the streetdancing, the food festival (October 17th), the light show (October 18th), and the electric Dansskara (October 18th).
- Bring an umbrella for the heat, or better yet, a hat, and make sure to use sunscreen. You would be on the streets for hours, and you wouldn’t want to suffer from heat stroke.
- Bring a bottle of water. You can always buy drinks on the street, but nothing beats being prepared in case you can’t leave your observation spot to find a food stall.
- If you have a camera, bring a plastic bag or any waterproofing material, just in case it rains.
- Wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be walking a lot.
- As much as possible, don’t bring a big bag. There are so many people on the streets that carrying a bag would not be very comfortable. If you have to, use a sling bag.
After the festival, there’s no need for you to go home immediately. There are several things you can do in and around Bacolod City that can make your extra days of stay there worthwhile. Here are some of my suggestions: things to do in (and near) Bacolod City.
Enjoy the Masskara!