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BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Around 17,000 residents of this city and other towns and cities in Negros Occidental flocked to the new Bacolod government center on Friday night, October 6 for the grand opening of the two-week revelry called the MassKara Festival.
Bacolod City police director, Col. Noel Aliño said the event was fun, energetic, but peaceful. He also assured visitors that more than 2,000 police personnel, soldiers, and force multipliers have been deployed to keep the 40th MassKara Festival safe.
Bands, pageant beauties, and street dancers gave a preview of what locals and tourists can experience from October 7 to 22.
“We had a great festival last year, one of the biggest,” Bacolod Mayor Albee Benitez told reporters on the sidelines of the countdown.
“This year, it will be even more fun. We have many entertainers, so to everyone who wants some rest and recreation, come to Bacolod and we’ll have jam-packed entertainment and events for you,” said Benitez in a mix of Hiligaynon, Tagalog, and English.
“It’s all systems go with all preparations in place to make this year’s festival even more exciting, bigger, bolder, and brighter,” said festival chairperson, Jojie Dingcong.
Bacolod City received the Aliw Award for Best Festival Practices and Performances in December 2022 for that year’s MassKara Festival.
Everything for everyone
Benitez, a billionaire and close ally of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has harnessed his gaming and entertainment empire for the festival.
The mayor is also the main sponsor in his personal capacity of volleyball, football, golf, billiard, table tennis, skateboard, and BMX competitions.
Mask-making and street-dancing contests, the Miss MassKara pageant, and a long outdoor area of famous Negrense delicacies have always been the main lure of the MassKara festival.
Festival organizer, Bacolod Yuhum Foundation, said the 2023 version features a culinary heritage contest, the MassKaNamit Food Exploration Festival, and a strictly-local trade fair.
Scattered musical jams will have space for established stars and buskers. There will be a retro dance night, exhibits of visual artists, a film night by local talents, events featuring K-Pop stars, and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.
A separate pageant will crown the king and queen among sectoral groups. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community will rollout “Drags and Divas” on October 17.
The 2023 Masskara logo is a tribute to nine species of endemic Kingfisher birds, which are endangered on Negros Island.
Local multimedia designer Myish Endolina, creator of the logo, said she aimed to show Bacolodnons’ adeptness in concealing tragedies behind masks.
“In acknowledging and remembering why we birthed Masskara, we are reminded of that fine balance of hope and despair,” Endolina said.
The tradition of the Masskara Festival dates back to the 1980s, when Negros Occidental province struggled with an economic crisis traced to corruption under then dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
His son and namesake is now President, and the main guest of honor of MassKara.
Ely Santiago, coined the term “Masskara,” combining “mass” (a large group of people) and the Spanish word “cara” (face).