Re-inventing today’s Masskara-A A +A
Thursday, October 18, 2012
FOR YEARS, I have stood consistently by my critical analysis that Masskara festival has turned from a collective expression of celebrating life over crisis and death to a commercialized carnival of egoism and escapism through merry-making, beer drinking and street dancing induced by the big business and local bureaucrats, all in the tradition of the pagans of the early civilizations and the hedonists of the medieval times.
Once I even stressed that Masskara festival was a poorer version of the October feast of Germany.
Theirs is a form of thanksgiving for all the good harvests during summer and a preparation for autumn and winter. Ours is pure idolatrous festival with no social relevance.
Today, I stand by the same omnibus critique but with a new challenge for Masskara – to re-invent and return it to its original intent of promoting a culture of optimism amid crisis, unity and cooperation amid confusion and division, of sharing in the midst of the acute condition of poverty and hunger that continue to stalk Bacolod and our province.
Icons of the Filipino cultural artist movement like Ely Santiago and Nunelucio Alvarado did not just depict in their art works the many faces of Negrosanons mired in deplorable condition. They wanted us to be conscious of such social condition as basis for a more realistic celebration of life, of celebrating life with the least and the lost, and of molding simplicity and frugality in our lifestyle.
Nune’s art works specially on the “Sakadas” always depicted the struggle and hope elements in the distorted picture of “Sakada” and his gloomy environment by enlarging his arms, showing a stern look in his eyes, or a twisted and stretched body as if he is struggling for his freedom.
Santiago and Nune’s artworks on Negrosanon faces were not empty abstraction of realities of life in Negros, nor a justification a “drink-dance-be-merry-for-tomorrow-we-die” lifestyle of the few affluent in Negros society.
They only mean one thing – that those who are still mired in despicable realities of life, tread on the ground drenched with tears, will be able to see through the masskara a brighter future than what we are used to or what we still have.
My long time friend Alejandro Deoma, one of the founding organizers of Teatro Obrero (Workers Theater) and now Bayan Muna provincial chairman once said that “sometimes it is necessary to temporarily free ourselves from the harsh realities of life. But it is something else if we are conditioned to avoid, or obscure and dilute, the day-to-day social and class contradictions in Negros society, as what Masskara has been promoting for more than two decades now.”
Masskara was never meant the way it is now – a festival led by those with ravenous desire for more profit, or of the elitist culture for consumerism, commercialism and repression.
It was meant as a celebration of life’s triumph over death, of love over hatred, of sharing than killing, of compassion than prejudice.
To understand Masskara from this standpoint and perspective, it is possible to re-invent the whole program of the festival.
To be able to do this, there are several elements that our organizers must consider in drawing the program.
One, a program that gives honor to our marginalized sectors, the “Sakadas”, agricultural workers, small agricultural producers and fisherfolks, the most numerous and constitute the backbone of our economy, yet the most neglected and deprived.
Two, a special commemoration for all victims of Don Juan tragedy and all other victims of social injustice in the region; two contrasting events yet with a common theme of life over death.
Three, special event that recognizes and honors our cultural artists for their role in the conceptualization of the different elements of the festival and the Bacolodnon and Negrosanon’s life.
Four, to get rid of beauty pageant contest that only demean our women, and instead event that honors our great men and women from all walks of life.
Five, maintain street dancing contest which usually serves as the culminating event, but use instead the homegrown or truly indigenous music and instruments, instead of the usual music of the Latin-American, Central American or Carribean genre.
Six, no beer drinking kiosks in public plaza which are the usual sources of bloody incidents, instead distribute them in the north and south sides of Araneta and Lacsons streets, and in reclamation area.
There could be more elements. I leave it to the imagination of those who agree with this standpoint.
What is more important is that we re-invent Masskara to what it truly mean to us – a celebration of life, unity, cooperation and sharing, amid struggles for a just and humane society.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 18, 2012.