UNIQUE, historic, and unforgettable.
This is how Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia described the 37th MassKara Festival, which was declared open by President Rodrigo Duterte Sunday afternoon at the public plaza.
“This MassKara Festival 2016 is unique, historic, and unforgettable because of one major reason, the presence of President Rodrigo Duterte,” the mayor said.
Leonardia said he is thankful to President Duterte for joining the MassKara Festival.
“To our President, from the bottom of hearts, we really thank you for joining us here,” he told Duterte before he introduced him as the special guest of the event, which marked the President’s first visit to Bacolod since he won the elections last May.
The MassKara is also the first Philippine festival that the President declared open since he was elected to Malacañang.
Before thousands of Bacolodnons and their city officials, the President after his speech declared, “By virtue of the power transferred by your mayor to me, I now pronounce before you and to the world that the MassKara Festival begins now. Mabuhay ang mga Ilonggo sa Bacolod.”
Duterte was initially scheduled to arrive Saturday, but his visit was moved to Sunday since he just arrived from his visit to Vietnam Friday night.
He described MassKara as one of the more colorful festivities (activities) in the Philippines.
National officials who joined the President on stage were Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Bureau of Internal Revenue Deputy Commissioner Clint Aranas, Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, Local Government Undersecretary Jesus Hinlo, and Presidential Adviser for the Visayas Michael Dino.
Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and third district Representative Alfredo Benitez were also present.
Moreover, Leonardia said that for 37 years, the Bacolodnons have embraced and nurtured the MassKara which has grown into proportions beyond wildest dreams, and expectations.
He added that the MassKara has become more than just a major tourism attraction.
It is a reflection of the Bacolodnons’ capacity to survive, zest for life, and never ending spirit of optimism, the mayor said.
Leonardia also said the MassKara, amid its color, pageantry and fun, serves as a reunion and homecoming for the people of Bacolod.
The mayor cited that MassKara Festival was recognized by international television network CNN and National Geographic as one of the 12 must-do things in the world in October, and one of the 12 best things in the Philippines.
“We will be proud of this. Year in and yearout,” Leonardia said.
At least 7,000 people attended the opening program, according to police estimates.
Senior Superintendent Flynn Dongbo, acting director of Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO), said no significant incident was recorded by 10 police stations while Duterte was in the city.
It was generally peaceful, Dongbo added.
More than 200 policemen from the BCPO and the Police Regional Office (PRO)-Negros Island Region were deployed to secure the event.
Senior Inspector Gideon Montaño, head of Police Station 1, whose jurisdiction includes the public plaza, said they did not receive reports of major crime incidents during the opening ceremony.
Montaño said there were petty crimes recorded but not related to the event.
Everything was okay until the President left the public plaza, he added.
Meanwhile, militant groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros marched their way through Rizal-Gatuslao Streets to call for support in the ongoing peace talks between the National Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) especially in the issue of socio-economic reform.
Bayan-Negros Secretary General Christian Tuayon said they gathered not to protest, but to call for support. (With reports from Glazyl Y. Masculino/PNA)