IT LOOKS like the world is marking Bacolod’s Masskara Festival this October with people wearing face masks in streets and public places in almost all countries these days. But seriously, especially for real Bacolodnons, who would not have heard of or even know about the annual Masskara Festival of Bacolod? Yes, there are no festivities to mark Masskara, which primarily result to large crowds and mass gatherings, and therefore not advisable under global protocols to help reduce transmission of Sars-Cov-2 or the virus that causes Covid-19. However, Covid-19 cannot stop the Masskara Festival since it is a permanent affair of the City of Bacolod under City Ordinance No. 08-14-686, dated September 10, 2014. This ordinance, which I authored, amended City Ordinance No. 33 dated October 6, 1987, otherwise known as an Ordinance Making the Masskara Festival a Permanent Affair in the City of Bacolod.
As a former councilor of Bacolod and author of the said amendatory ordinance, I am still very much inspired to greet all my fellow Bacolodnons a Happy Masskara Festival because in essence, this festival is more than just mere revelry in the streets. It celebrates and speaks about the resilience of Bacolodnons in the face of adversities.
To quote some of the “whereas clauses” of the city ordinance, “since its first staging in 1980 the Masskara Festival has become popular and has been widely acclaimed as one of the best and must-see festivals in the Philippines today, because of its creativity, artistry, uniqueness, craftsmanship, lively beat and overall significance to the message that Bacolod wants to send the world - that it is truly the City of Smiles.”
City Ordinance No. 08-14-686 states that “in the midst of periodic economic downturns in the sugar industry and the sinking of the inter-island vessel Don Juan carrying many Negrenses, including prominent families in Bacolod City, the city's artists, local government and civic groups decided to hold a festival of smiles to pull the people out of the pervasive gloomy atmosphere.”
City Ordinance No. 08-14-686 states further that “the word Masskara was coined from the word mass which means 'multitude of people' and the Spanish 'cara' or face, thus, forming “Masskara,” which means multitude of faces. The word is also a pun of Filipino word “mascara” or mask since the prominent feature of the festival are the masks worn by participants which are always adorned with smiling faces.”
I know many Bacolodnons already know the beginnings of Masskara, but it is worth repeating especially for the younger generation that the Charter of the City of Bacolod or Commonwealth Act No. 326 was approved by Manuel L. Quezon on June 18, 1938, but another presidential decree was issued to set the inaugural of the new city and the oath of its first city mayor, Alfredo Montelibano, Sr., on October 19, 1938. The inaugural day was actually postponed several times due to bad weather. Hence, to this day, the Masskara Festival is celebrated closest to October 19.
In 2014, I am grateful for the chance to officially help craft the actual essence of the celebration of Masskara, and captured the sentiments of many stakeholders, aside from my own, into five general objectives of why the Masskara Festival should be a permanent and significant affair in the city as enumerated in City Ordinance No. 08-14-686:
First, to serve as an inspiration for Filipinos and people around the world that there is hope despite the adversities and challenges and that Bacolodnons are best examples of a resilient, fun-loving and smiling people.
Second, to highlight the creativity, craftsmanship, skills and talents of Bacolodnons in all forms of arts, such as but not limited to dance, music, theater and visual arts.
Third, to provide a venue for Bacolodnons to host and conduct a variety of activities and projects to bring local and foreign tourists and visitors as well as investors to the city.
Fourth, to build, encourage and continually renew the unity, commitment and cooperation among the government, private sector, barangays, schools, church, organizations and other institutions.
Fifth, to create and successfully sustain a globally competitive brand of festival for Bacolod City as a strategy to improve the socio-economic conditions of the city.
Even without the street-dancing, almost all the objectives mentioned in the ordinance can still be done if we are united as a community. In 2014, I have started the Bacolod Trade and Tourism Expo and Conferences and dubbed it as “Masskara City” to give flesh to the ordinance. I am proud to say that it was the first biggest conference hosted by the SMX Bacolod Convention Center before it even commercially opened to the public. Masskara City is a three-day one-stop trade and tourism fair and was aimed to draw thousands of visitors, aims at converging businesses from various industries and LGUs from all regions in showcasing their product and service offerings and their tourism destinations. It also had several components like the ICT-BPO Expo, MSMEs Trade Show, and the Bacolod Beauty, Health and Wellness Show, aside from hosting, among others, the food fair and Bacolod MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Exhibits) meet, with participants having their products and services displayed in the expo booths. I hope Bacolod will soon recover from this pandemic and become once more the vibrant and colorful city that it really is.