Last October, I went back to Bacolod City , also known as the City of Smiles , not only to attend the wedding of my brother but also to finally experience the MassKara Festival. The only time I watched this street parade was when I’m 4 or 5 years old. The next years were just in front of the television set. Bacolod City is synonymous to MassKara and vice versa. The theme of this year’s festival was “Celebrating 30 Years of Smiles”, after seeing this on numerous banners, I immediately thought, I am older than the festival!
After my brother’s wedding, my mind was set to capture the festivities. To be on the streets and be amazed by the flashes of colorful costumes and masks. To appreciate more the music I grew up but now with a different mix and flavor. To abuse Nikki until she complains. IT WILL BE FUN! And indeed it was fun! Non-stop shoot from Thursday to Sunday, and my mother started to worry if I am already obsessed with photography. I told her, not yet, but almost there. LOL! Personally, this is the happiest festival in the Philippines .
How this event started?
The festival first began in 1980 during a period of crisis. The province relied on sugar cane as its primary agricultural crop, and the price of sugar was at an all-time low due to the introduction of sugar substitutes like high fructose corn syrup in the United States . It was also a time of tragedy; on April 22 of that year, the inter-island vessel Don Juan carrying many Negrenses, including those belonging to prominent families in Bacolod City , collided with the tanker Tacloban City and sank. An estimated 700 lives were lost in the tragedy.
In the midst of these tragic events, the city's artists, local government and civic groups decided to hold a festival of smiles, because the city at that time was also known as the City of Smiles. They reasoned that a festival was also a good opportunity to pull the residents out of the pervasive gloomy atmosphere. The initial festival was therefore, a declaration by the people of the city that no matter how tough and bad the times were, Bacolod City is going to pull through, survive, and in the end, triumph. More here
Yeah, it was to hide all the gloominess of the Negrenes during those times. And I thought it was a clever idea to counter the mood. We all need to cheer up and face the future with a broad smile.
Thursday street dance parade was for the school category. I raced through the streets alone and pressured myself that I must get at least one good shot to show to my friends when I return to Japan . Since the pace is a little bit fast, there was no time to check the photos except at home. I didn’t wait for the announcement of results as I don’t want to be squeezed by thousands of people rushing to hail a jeep or a taxi. I enjoyed the first day of the street parade and the songs kept on playing on my mind even while sleeping.
Friday was a let-down. I expected a lot for the MassKara Electric Dance Parade but was just left craving for more. My reaction was, that was it? Earlier that event though, I went to Photographers’ Night. It was an indoor activity showcasing some fantasy costumes and sexy models. And how frustrating it was? I didn’t known how to use my external flash. Can somebody help how to explore the flash? The good thing was I met lots of photo enthusiasts and was able to have my camera clean for free.
Saturday was for the Baranggay category. The number of participants was larger than the school category, which means there will be lots of people (local and tourists) along the streets of Bacolod City as well as the City Plaza , the final performance judging area. With an official photographer’s ID, it was easier for me to access / enter the dancing area. I am not really comfortable in capturing action shots but I was hoping that my camera settings will be just fine. For this day alone, I took more or less 500 photos. The day was particularly hot but I didn’t mind it as I enjoyed every second of it. Lots of photo enthusiasts were there too and we agree that perhaps this is the most colorful event in the Philippines.
Sunday was for the Open Category. It is known to be the highlight of the festivities but this year was particularly different. Most of the participants were from Saturday. Actually I was expecting a lot because during the past years, only the winners of the first two categories are eligible to join and the other participants will be coming from establishments and/or company-sponsored. Sunday was almost a replay of Saturday. But still it didn’t stop the Bacolenos to go the city proper to be a part of the celebration. As for me, it was a great experience. Finally, I can say, I was there everytime I share or invite a friend or two to visit Bacolod .
The moment you hear “Kari sa Bacolod , Dala Masskara (Go to Bacolod , Bring A Mask)”, consider it as invitation to visit the City of Smiles.
See you all next year!