Bacolod City, Philippines: Home of the Masskara Festival

January 12, 2008 7:53am CST
October is memorable month for the people of Bacolod City in southern Philippines. Not only is October 19 its charter anniversary, the entire third week is dedicated to the revelry that is Masskara Festival. The Masskara Festival is not merely a celebration of artistry or the colorful street dances. But it is the commemoration of a series of events that deepened the unity and faith of a people. Bacolod City is the capital of the province of Negros Occidental, home of the famed sugar barons, hacienderos, and sabungeros in Islas Filipinas. The landed elite enjoyed affluence and the nature of its product afforded both the landowner and its workers an easy lifestyle. But then, all good things must come to an end. The sugar industry felt a crushing blow in the 1980s. People were losing their jobs. Although it was an exaggeration, but it was during this time that the term “batang Negros” was coined, referring to malnourished children whose bones jutted out of their skins. And tragedy of all tragedies, the vessel Don Juan sank, along with the hundreds of Negrenses, whole families, cars, and their valuables. A number of people became orphaned and widowed. It was the Titanic incident of Negros and the province mourned. The 80s was a dark decade for the entire province of Negros. The people were desperate and hopeless, but not for long. Some genius found a way to divert the city’s maladies into a positive energy—the Masskara Festival. Originally, the mask was intended to hide people’s tears and the music and revelry of the street dancing to drown out the sorrows. And it was effective. It was high time, as the people were looking for a change to alleviate their miserable conditions, albeit temporarily. The festival gave them hope that they could still remain joyful even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Since then, the Masskara Festival became an annual event. What started out as a cover up for something ugly, now became a symbol of unity, strength of character, and the resilience of a people that has undergone tragic events. Would you like to come and visit our city??? We are located in Asia, in a country called Philippines. Our capital city is Manila, and from Manila, it only takes an hour of plane ride going to Bacolod City. Do come and visit us. God bless you and take care! :-)
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