Masskara Festival: A Filipino festival you shouldn’t miss

Masskara - Philippines' answer to Mardi Gras!

Indeed the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental is one of the most flamboyant and fun celebrations in the Philippines which is held each year on the third weekend of October.

How would you like to be lost in a sea of colorful, smiling faces that cheer up the spirit and invigorate the creative soul? Imagine watching a mass of dancers on the streets in lustrous, multicolored costumes and with an ingenious and artistic array of masks and headdresses! Not to mention taking part in an entertaining range of activities such as dancing competitions, street parties, and art shows.

A Little Background

Masskara Festival1 Masskara Festival: A Filipino festival you shouldnt miss

A scene from the vibrant and colourful Masskara Festival : Jeff Pioquinto, SJ

Many think that the Masskara Festival got its name from the Filipino word “maskara” which means “mask”. Yes, this may be related that’s why the event is characterized by hundreds of beautiful, colorful, and imaginative masks. However, the real etymology of this festival’s name came from the English word “mass” which means “multitude” and from the Spanish word “kara” which refers to “face”. Locals in Bacolod give great importance to this annual festivity which for them simply means “ a multitude of smiling faces”, representing their celebration of abundance and blessing in life after an economic setback in the 1980s followed by a tragic incident.

At this time before the Masskara Festival was born, Bacolodnons were experiencing economic depression because of the low pricing of sugar in the world market. These people highly depended on the sugar industry, which is why this occurrence brought about despair and gloominess. Then came a great tragedy— The passenger ship Don Juan sank, causing around 700 people to pass away. With these unhappy episodes in the city, the government officials decided to launch a festival to remind people that Bacolod is a “city of smiles” and that they can still continue to hope and be blessed in the future.

Highlights of the Festival

What can you expect when you attend this magnificent festival, featured as a must-go-to event in National Geographic? Here are the highlights of the Masskara Festival:

• Electric Masskara- You will certainly forget all your worries for three straight days and nights in this wonderful street party, considered one of the country’s longest and biggest parties and also a giant merrymaking of fun and bliss. Often included in this particular activity are various parades and the famous float competition at the Tourism Strip in Bacolod City, among an exciting fusion of great music, food, and colorful costumes.

• Street Dance Competition- Several groups of masked dancers in bright, iridescent get-ups fill up the streets with their fantastic moves in time with upbeat tunes and drumbeats. This traditional dance competition is a much-awaited event by locals and travelers.

• Majica Masskara- This is the annual art extravaganza of the festival, showcasing the flourishing art scene in the city and revealing great and new artistic talents through breathtaking floats.

• Masskara Art Shows- Different art shows are also scheduled during the week of the Masskara Festival, featuring a vast array of beautiful visual masterpieces from local artists that exhibit related themes to the celebration.

• Giant Masskara Puppets- If the other festival highlights are not enough, you should definitely be able to watch the parade of these 12 to 14-foot tall puppets, often created by Fine Arts students in local colleges and universities. These gigantic puppets will mesmerize you with their various interesting characters and ensembles.

• Inter-Barangay Talent Competition- Aside from the other competitions, there is also a sing and dance talent contest among the various barangays (61 small communities that make up Bacolod city).

• Search for Masskara Queen- When you visit the different localities across the Philippine islands and attend some of the fiestas and other celebrations, you’ll discover how fond Filipinos are of beauty pageants. Naturally, the Masskara Festival also holds its own exciting beauty pageant.

With these amazing events and activities held during the Masskara Festival, all vacationers from different parts of the Philippines and the world have good reason to watch out for and attend this unique and incredible festivity. There won’t be any dull moment, and you’ll surely have plenty of fascinating pictures, souvenirs, and memories to bring back home.

Olive E.

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