What's Behind The MassKara Festival?
Choose Philippines | Oct 01, 2019
Festivities of MassKara are always a colorful sight to behold!
Yearly, the costumes seem to get brighter and more vibrant.
Other things to look forward to are the floats, props, and the performances in the parade
One of Bacolod's top mask makers, Jojo Vito
Paper mache masks
Masks used for awards
Neon lights brighten the MassKara night parade
They heighten the experience of MassKara with their luminous glow!
Story by Martian Muyco
Photos by Bacolod City PIO
The month of October has now been imprinted as the most festive month and some may say as the happiest month of the year because of the celebration of the world-known MassKara Festival. But how did really the festival start?
MassKara Festival Director Eli Tajanlangit speaks on the account of Marissa Montalvo-Coral, daughter of then Bacolod City Mayor Jose “Digoy” Montalvo. Eli says that the mask making was originally planned as a livelihood project for the people of Bacolod who were affected by the sugar crisis in the province. In order to create a demand for the fledgling industry, Mayor Digoy created a festival where artisans can showcase the masks they created.
Tragedy struck on April 1980 when a tanker hit the M/S Don Juan ferry which was carrying hundreds of Negrense passengers, causing the death of hundreds of people on board. Given that there was an ongoing sugar crisis during that period, the event only worsened this period of struggle for the Negrenese people. With these circumstances, Mayor Digoy decided to push through with the festival, saying that it will be a declaration of hope where people will put on happy masks to show that they will survive the adversities and flourish with smiles, thus giving birth to the MassKara Festival.
MassKara in its early years had costumes that were made of indigenous materials. Former MassKara choreographer and currently the chair of MassKara Festival Organization Street Dance Committee, Rudy Reveche, says some of the past costumes were made of papel de hapon (Japanese paper), corn husk and other cheap materials. Masks were made of paper mache, devoid of any design. In 1988, choreographer Donna Porter introduced masks that were patterned from Rio de Janeiro's Mardi Gras. This changed the way designers made the masks and costumes, ushering in a more colorful incarnation of the MassKara Festival, giving birth to many creative executions for masks and costumes throughout the years.
One of the renowned mask makers in the city is Jojo Vito. From printing press business, he started making masks because of the growing popularity of the MassKara festival. His initial masks were made from paper mache and used colorful materials such as beads for decorations. He also tried using clay to create masks. Now, he graduated to hand painted fiberglass to create colorful masks, incorporating iconic symbols and attractions of Bacolod City and Negros Occidental, which he markets as souvenirs and even trophies for events.
In 2008, the Silver MassKara Festival Organization introduced a new crowd favorite, the Electric MassKara. Aside from the usual MassKara Street Dance and Arena Competition, the Electric MassKara is essentially a night version of the MassKara parade where performers don LED lighted costumes and props and feature float and bands that are out of this world. The Electric MassKaras is held in Lacson Street, which is the tourist strip of the city, where the street turns into a party area at night.
This year’s MassKara festival is said to be one of the grandest that was ever staged. Eli, the festival director, says that in the festival’s 40th year, they will be pulling all stops to bring MassKara to a level which was never seen before. The opening ceremonies of this year’s celebration will start on 7 October. The highlight events such as the MassKara Queen Pageant Night will be on 23 October, Electric MassKara on 25 to 27 October, and the MassKara Arena Streetdancing Competition will be on 26 October for the school category and 27 October for the barangay category.