Ombion: MassKara revisited

IT IS the MassKara Festival in Bacolod. It’s a month-long merrymaking to commemorate and celebrate the resiliency of Negrosanon who suffered collective disasters and tragedies one after the other in the 70’s through the 80’s.

Top of this was the “mysterious” sinking of M/S Don Juan, the devastation of sugar crisis especially on the already impoverished sugar workers, strong typhoons that successively hit Negros, and of course, the countless killings and human rights violations of the Marcos fascist regime in the same period.

It was a period seen by Negrosanon and my own parents as some sort of the end of the world.

Few years ago, I made few comprehensive critique of the way the city managed the Bacolod Masskara festival, where I pointed out some historical distortions of the context of the festival, its commercialization through giving favored big business companies and ads moguls the upper hand in its programs, and no less, the bastardization of the culture of the sugar workers, farmers and the urban poor.

This is not to mention the festival turning Bacolod into a big comfort room and videoke bar of merrymakers, local and foreigners alike.

In recent years, except for some cases of local officials trying to make money for themselves out of the festival, I must admit that the MassKara has slowly been changing its public image and the way the people perceive it.

There are a few good reasons for this changing image.

For one, the festival programs have improved a lot; there is now a diversity in the daily and weekly programs to accommodate various interests and age levels; events are spread out in various centers of the city not only to prevent geographical monotony but also to project the business potentials of other areas; and more local cultural artists are involved. Of course, the MassKara dancers from different barangays are still the core of the entire festival

Second, a private foundation, involving professionals and business wizards, but with close checks and controls of the city government, handles the festival, incurring fewer expenses from the government and instead more taxes from festival incomes.

Third, MassKara’s changing image play well with the infrastructures development in Bacolod and neighboring cities. MassKara festival will certainly boast the bigger potentials of Bacolod for local economic development.

Despite this improvements, I believe that MassKara Festival is still lacking in the depth of its context especially in capturing the continuing systemic problems of the sugar industry which also affect Bacolod society; the difficulties of the city government to help improve the quality of life of its majority poor constituents; the city’s problem in balancing rapid urbanization and environmental and social integrity.

No less, of course, is MassKara Festival lack of integrating into the festival the persevering struggles of the marginalized and vulnerable sectors to remove their “masskara” and face social realities head on towards changing it.

Being collectively happy as a people and generation without “masskara,” without pretensions and hypocrisies, is the bigger social relevance of Masskara in Negros society.

To me, this remains a challenge to the MassKara Festival organizers.


I was informed that Kilusang Pagbabago (KP) Negros has forged an informal alliance with Grupo Progreso (GP) on the platform of intensifying campaign against illegal drugs and crimes, promoting the federal form of government, improving and expanding delivery of social services for the marginalized sectors, institutionalizing participatory governance.

KP guru lawyer Archie Baribar has also accepted the offer of Mayor Bing Leonardia to run as councilor under Grupo Progreso as a concrete expression of such alliance.

Other former opposition councilors have also forged ties with Mayor Bing’s group; they say not for political expediency but because the incumbent mayor has opened to convergence with persons and groups who he believes have integrity, capacity and leadership to realize substantive changes in the city.

If this development is true and supported from both sides, then such alliance could easily usher changes in a politico-economic direction of Bacolod, and perhaps, open up a new perspective for Mayor Bing’s group, Grupo Progreso para sa Pagbabago.

I wish them luck in their new journey.


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