The Man Behind The Street Dances of Bacolod's Masskara Festival
Lory Joyce Andagan | November 08, 2019
One of the most colorful festivals in the country is the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City. The highlight of the event is the street dance competition, where dancers will parade wearing beautiful masks and costumes. In order to give the best performances for the visitors who came to witness the festivities, participants clock in months of brutal preparations.
[related: For MassKara 2019, Which Mask Will You Wear?]
Each dance is rich with stories of every Bacolodnon, as interpreted by choreographers. The man behind the victory of many champions in every Masskara festival is Mr. Joedem Casabuena. “I always make sure that my choreography will leave a mark on the audience”, says Joedem.
He started joining Masskara street dance competition at the age of 16. “I always wanted to join the competition ever since I was a child. When I had the opportunity, I never missed the chance,” Joedem reveals. After joining different competing groups several times, he decided to choreograph for the school category competitions. He caught his big career break when he handled Barangay Granada, who went on to become champion for three consecutive years during the Masskara street dance competition. Lucky, it was also during this time that the Masskara Festival was brought to different places locally and internationally. Dancers were from Joedem’s team. “Wala ko gid na – imagine nga makakadto ako sa mga pungsod nga handom ko lang sang una.” (I never imagined that I can go to places that I just dreamed of before.) This opened to many opportunities for him as a choreographer.
It’s not always fun for Joedem as he faced different challenges in the span of his career. “Last year, while I was in dance practice, I received a message saying my mom died. I couldn’t even smile," Joedem recalls, "How can I interpret a dance that depicts festivity if I was at my saddest point?" Remembering the roots of the Masskara festival helped him immensely. "Despite the challenges and problems that Bacolodnons encountered, they moved on and danced to the beat of Masskara music," he shares, "With that, I drew inspiration, put an invisible mask, and went on with dancing enthusiastically."
[related: What's Behind The MassKara Festival?]
This year, as Masskara Festival celebrates its Ruby Year, the Joedem's team has prepared well and were hailed champion for the street dance and arena competition last 27 October 2019. All the hard work paid off. The rain during the festival gave them the push to deliver their best, even if everyone was tired from dancing with masks that weighs 5 kilos each. "Pagsaot namon, daw indi na namon mabatyagan ang kabug- aton. Ginpabay-an na namon ang ulan" (We can't feel the weight when we started dancing. We didn't mind the rain.), says Jay- R Regalado, one of the dancers. He said that Casabuena encourages them despite the rain. "Kayanon ta ni. Indi magpaluya sa tunga. Aton ni stage." (We can do this. Don't lose your energy while you perform. This is our stage.)