Masskara: Festival of Smiles


Masskara is a combination of two words – the English word mass meaning many or multitude and the Spanish word kara which in English means face. Masskara is also the dialect for the English word “mask”.

Every October Bacolod City, also known as the City of Smiles, celebrates the Masskara Festival. The festival’s highlight is the street dancing which is held on the weekend nearest to the City’s Charter day on October 19.

Dancers wearing colorful costumes and smiling masks parade down the streets and dance to a Latin beat theme song. Unlike the Sinulog Festival (which is held in Cebu every 3rd Sunday of January) wherein there is live beating and playing of the drums, the Masskara festival is different.There’s no live beating and playing of the drums instead, huge speakers are set up in the side of streets of the parade route. All contingents dance to the same music and beat from start to finish.

Photo by wantet.

The Masskara parade route is much shorter compared to Sinulog parade route. I’m sure this is a very welcome idea for the dancers however since the route is much shorter the crowd is not spread out and there is a tendency for the streets to be really overcrowded.

This was the 2nd Masskara festival I attended. The first time I saw it was in the year 1999, 6 yrs. ago. During that time it wasn’t that crowded compared to this year’s festival. It shows how the festival has grown since then. Visitors from other parts of the country as well as foreigners came to see the Masskara festival.

I don’t usually buy souvenir items as they as they would just end up as junk in my room but I can’t help buying one for myself a masskara souvenir item. I just found it pretty cool to bring home. The masskara souvenir items were a big hit not only to foreign tourists but as well as to local tourists. They come in different colors and sizes. The smaller ones can be bought at around PhP50 while medium sized ones can be bought from PhP8-120. Bigger souvenir masks are sold as high as PhP500.

In my opinion there are still lot of things that needs to be improved to make the festival more interesting and organized but the essence why the festival is being celebrated should not be forgotten. The Masskara festival is a celebration and declaration that despite all the hardships the Bacolodnons have faced and will face in the future they will survive and succeed in the end.

More Masskara photos can be found in my Flickr site


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