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.