Bacolod is made more popular by this unique celebration that allows local and foreign visitors a chance to drink and be merry for 20 days. The Masskara Festival is an international-crowd drawer festival that brings out the rich and colorful heritage of the people of Bacolod.
The Festival is celebrated from October 1 – 20 every year. One of the highlights of the festival is the 20-days festivities of drinking beer, eating and dining, street dancing and merrymaking. The festival culminates on October 20th when the biggest party in Bacolod is held.
The Masskara Festival was originally envisioned in 1980 to add color to the Bacolod City’s celebration of the Charter Day anniversary which is on October 19th. The Negrenses used a smiling mask as the symbol of the festival, and to symbolize the happy spirit of the Negrenses in general despite frequent economic hurdles in the sugar industry.
Since its inception, the Masskara festival has repeatedly represented the country in some of the major Asian festivals, particularly the Chinggay Festival in Singapore in 1998, the Lunar Festival of Hong Kong in 2001, the International Tourism Festival of Shanghai in 2004 and the Midosuji Festival Parade of Osaka, Japan. The Masskara Festival delegation emerged as champion in the foreign category and first runner–up in the local category. It was the first award to be given to a foreign participant in the ten-year history of the Japanese festival.
Masskara Festival is one of the Philippine festivals that has also been on numerous exhibition performances in the Visayas and Luzon. In 2005, the Masskara dance was the most applauded performance during the 23rd Asian Games held in Bacolod City. Such performances have caused the international guests and dignitaries to talk about the festival earning a spot in international press.
Over the years, Masskara has undergone a lot of changes since 1980 when it was made part of the Charter Day celebrations. In essence, the Masskara Festival has fittingly mirrored the resilient spirits of the Bacoleños or the Negrenses and symbolized survival when the sugar industry – the city’s lifeline, plummeted down.
By nature, Bacoleños are high-spirited, having that zest for life. During the good times when the sugar industry was at its peak, Bacoleños enjoyed life. When the crisis hit, they still put on the smile despite the hardships experienced. No hardship or crisis can ever get the Bacoleños down. They are a resilient lot and they sort of hide it behind their happy front.
Decades after the downturn of the sugar industry, Bacolod is still standing, no longer dependent on sugar cane – their cash crop. Bacoleño still celebrates life along the mainstream of social evolution, contemporary events, industry and technology.
Bacolod is not Bacolod without the Masskara Festival. It is part of who and what they are, then and today. Masskara will remain an important festival and reminder for the Bacoleños to smile and be gregarious and charming no matter what.