I come from Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. Bacolod, known as the "City of Smiles" and the "Sugar Capital of the Philippines" is popular for its Masskara Festival which is celebrated yearly from October 1 to 20. For twenty straight days, local and foreign visitors enjoy the merrymaking, street dancing, beer drinking, street parties, and parades around the main thoroughfares of Bacolod.
"Masskara" ("Mass" means crowd; and "kara" from the Spanish word cara which means face) was coined by famous cartoonist, painter and cultural artist, the late Ely Santiago (a Negrense), whose many art works depicted the many faces of Negrenses overwhelmed with grief with the happening of a series of crises: the loss of their loved ones who perished in the famous MV Don Juan tragedy; the economic depression brought about by the collapse of the sugar industry; a serious drought which was followed by two destructive typhoons.
The Masskara Festival was envisioned in 1980 to add color to Bacolod City's Charter Day celebration. The organizers adopted a smiling mask as the symbol of the festival to represent the happy spirit of the Negrenses in spite of the many problems they experienced.
When I was still in Bacolod, I always looked forward to the fun and festivities of Masskara, especially the street party, the countdown and the fireworks display during the Charter Day celebration (October 19). Also a much-awaited event of the festival is the dance competition and street parade of groups in different colorful masks and costumes.
Thanks to my former officemates at the Hall of Justice, Cecile Linga and Misyel Tupaz, who shared with me their Masskara 2009 memoirs.