What’s Masskara?

By Ed Coambs, Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation, Bacolod Philippines



It is time to smile! That’s right Bacolod, Philippines has a festival that is committed to smiling. After all the city is also known as the city of smiles. I have had the distinct please of witnessing bright colors, load music and smelling chicken roasting on an open BBQ.

During the third week of October every year Bacolod decorates its city in smiling faces. These faces are symbolic of the resilience and strength of the community. The festival was originally created during a hard period of time in Bacolod’s history. It’s 1980 Bacolod is faced with historically low sugar prices, which proves particularly challenging for a community built on sugar cane. To top it many of the city’s prominent leaders are killed during a tragic boat collision.

The remaining leaders of the city know they must pull themselves from the depression that is afflicting their people. In comes Masskara a festival of smiles reminding the people of Bacolod that eventually they will overcome these challenges and find them selves successful again.

Now it is time for me to enjoy and see what this festival is all about. I start by walking with up down the main drag with my Kiva Coordinator Presy from Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation. A good way to take in the overall ambiance. After my eyes are overloaded with sights, my taste buds are left craving some attention.

We find a table with friends of Presy’s and settle in for a variety of distinctly Filipino treats. Including my new favorite fish. It is called milk fish that is served raw in vinegar, with onions and garlic. All I have to say is man I am glad I tried that. The other special treat was a few beers that are locally brewed that did a nice job or washing down the roasted and spicy peanuts we bought from a steet vendor.

The night wraps up and I feel a bit sad that I did not actually get to see any of the dance teams perform. Well to my surprise we go back the next night to enjoy the festivities again and I get the chance to see the dancers.

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