3 Things You Might Not Know About the “happiest and most colorful festival in the Philippines”
The Philippines, located in South East Asia, is made up of 7,641 islands, and celebrate hundreds of “fiestas” or festivals each year. Out of these hundreds of festivals, there is one known as the “happiest and most colorful festival in the Philippines” – the MassKara Festival.
The MassKara festival is celebrated every October in Bacolod City, in my hometown province of Negros Occidental. This year, highlights will be celebrated on October 22, 2017, but the month-long celebration starts October 1st with a beauty pageant, concerts, food-fests and other activities that will draw thousands of visitors from around the country.
Here are three things you might not know about the “happiest and most colorful festival in the Philippines”.
1. It is a festival born out of tragedy.
And then another tragedy struck. On April 22, 1980, the M/S Don Juan, an inter-island vessel, carrying around a thousand people from Negros, collided with another vessel. Seven hundred people perished including the family of the Bacolod city mayor. It is said that the Don Juan tragedy was one of the darkest times in Bacolod city history.
It was in these tragic times that a group of city officials conceived the MassKara Festival to help liven up the spirits of the people. The term MassKara is pronounced like the Spanish word for mask – “máscara”, but it was coined from the English word “Mass” meaning “many or multitude of people” and the Spanish word “Kara” meaning “face”. It was how MassKara came to mean “face of the masses or a multitude of smiling faces”.
2. It’s a Serious Competition. Seriously.
The main attraction of the festival is the Street Dancing Competition, with the beautiful intricate costumes, the swirl of lavish colors, gorgeous grinning masks, parading and performing complex dance routines to booming Latin music.
But don’t let those smiling faces fool you. This is competition with a capital C. Different “barangays” or neighborhoods and schools from around the city train year-round to compete for prize money, sponsorship from local companies, and of course, bragging rights.
The festival masks, made from fiberglass and other materials, can be as heavy as four pounds. Imagine the stamina of the dancers who endure several hours of parading and street-dancing with their heavy masks and costumes under a hot, tropical sun.
They might have wide, smiling grins on their faces, but underneath that is discipline, grit, and the will to win.
3. It is world-renowned.
The MassKara festival has come a long way from its humble beginnings. [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Originating from a simple, quiet province, it is now one of the most sought after festivals in the Philippines. [/perfectpullquote]
MassKara dancers have performed in several venues around the world, bringing with them their infectious smiles and distinct charms.
I am filled with pride whenever someone recognizes and brings up the MassKara Festival. I look forward to sharing with my children this part of my childhood and my wish is for them to grow up and embody the same values that I feel for this festival and the people of my hometown continue to exemplify – resilience and a continued joy for life.
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Alena Redrico was born and raised in the Philippines. She is mom to Raizo, 5, and Anya, 2 whom she is raising bilingual and exposed to their Filipino heritage as well as other cultures. Prior to settling in California, USA, she traveled the world as a flight attendant. She was born and raised in the Sugar Capital of the Philippines where she says the people are sweet and have very good teeth from munching on sugar cane.
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