Bacolod Masskara Festival In New York: A Brief History Of The Masskara Festival

The Masskara Festival is Bacolod’s answer to the famed festivals of the Visayas: Cebu’s Sinulog, Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan and Iloilo’s Dinagyang. Unlike these three, which have roots in the ancient worship practices of the pre-Spanish Era natives, the Masskara Festival of Bacolod has a different background story: one that will inspire anyone who is facing tough times.

Negros Occidental enjoyed the boom of the sugar industry from the 1860′s and up to its peak in the 1950′s. The Sugar Crash was set into motion in the 1960′s when the US started creating alternatives to sugar. By the 1980′s, Negros Occidental’s economy faced its decline. On April 22, 1979, Bacolod faced another blow to its collective psyche: Bacolod lost 700 souls in the tragic collision of the MS Don Juan passenger vessel with the Tacloban City tanker. Needless to say, the Don Juan sank, and with it, the high spirits of the Bacolodnon.

With the spirit of gloom pervading the region, the Bacolod local government, along with the elite and renowned artist Ely Santiago. then the Art Association of Bacolod’s president, conceptualized an activity to break the melancholy atmosphere. It was also Ely Santiago who “christened” the festivities as “Masskara,” a portmanteau of “Mass” and “Cara” = A mass of people + “Face” in Spanish. It was meant to be a homonym to “Maskara,” or “Mask,” in Filipino, as the original concept of the celebration was about deciding to smile. To work on being happy, in spite of the gloomy circumstances.

The Masskara, then, is one celebration that truly embodies a CELEBRATION: The drive, the gumption, the determination to BE happy, to KEEP SMILING, NO MATTER WHAT.

A Filipino from a different region may wonder, “Now isn’t that fake?” (“Plastic,” as we’d say.)

Honestly, not really.

Motivational gurus, Psychology experts, and spiritual leaders concur: negative emotions kill and choke the life of a human being. Negative emotions work on crippling a person from being productive. It may sound senseless, but when depressed, decide to ENJOY. To be IN JOY. Why? You may find that you’ll pull out of that funk you were in.

And so, this is the spirit that the Masskara Festival originally sought to infuse into the Bacolodnon and the Negrense. And this is the spirit that it brings, wherever the Bacolodnon takes the Masskara, even elsewhere in the world.



Photo Credits: Mrs. Teresa Mirasol via You Know You’re From Bacolod If… Facebook Group (Album accessible to members only.) 

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4 Responses to “Bacolod Masskara Festival In New York: A Brief History Of The Masskara Festival”

  1. Janet Cuaycong
    June 10, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Very true. Reading the above article reminds me of that tragedy including our family friends and relatives.

  2. teresa lim
    June 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    Teresa Mirasol ?Lorie Therese Locara – Lorie, your words are invigorating to us. Bringing the news home reminds everyone that we have not forgotten our past. It shows to our kababayan’s that we celebrate our culture; proud of our heritage; and willing to demonstrate to the world our lively traditions. But more essential, it reminds us that we hold dear to our heart, our homeland. Your pen has carried our story home, and hopefully, the radiant smile of Bacolaneos shines eternally. I am so grateful for this story, god bless you.June 8 at 10:19pm · LikeUnlike · 3.

    Cristina Ardiente Delatina-Rosa Thank you Lorie Therese Locara… Great article.. Enjoyed reading it. June 8 at 7:50pm · LikeUnlike · 2.

    Cristina Ardiente Delatina-Rosa ?Lorie Therese Locara… This article said what the major newspapers in Bacolod didn’t- how the group came to be and how much work it was to organize, especially for our over-all chairman, Maria Imelda Gargarita and her dear husband, Nestor J. Gargarita, how we were just there happy to represent Bacolod not knowing that we are going to be judged versus the other parade participants. Thank you, thank you for incorporating it there. June 8 at 8:04pm · UnlikeLike · 3.

    Nestor J. Gargarita ?Lorie Therese Locara – Thank you for the nice and inspiring words you had said about the group… Thank You Very Much June 8 at 8:48pm · UnlikeLike · 4

    Maria Imelda Gargarita ?Lorie Therese Locara I am deeply touched by your kind words…Thank You Thank You Thank You!June 8 at 10:02pm · LikeUnlike · 2

  3. Larry Geronca
    August 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Correction–The M/V Don Juan Tragedy was April 22, 1980. Its link to the Festival’s Conceptualization came much later.
    The first purpose of the Festival was just to celebrate the Charter Day of Bacolod. The smiling face came next. And then the reasons for the Smiling Face emerged. Therein comes the Story of Don Juan.
    And many ideas soon poured in.

    • Admin
      June 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      Manong Larry, thank you for your comment on here. :) Your comment serves as the clarification to this detail. :)

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