Masks so vibrant, colorful and intricate they almost look alive. Dancers carrying the weight of these masks – some as heavy as four or five kilos – on their faces under the heat of the midday sun as they ran, skipped, whirled, and even bobbed up and down. To me, these are what makes Bacolod’s MassKara Festival dancers especially amazing to watch.
The origin of this festival is in itself admirable. The first MassKara Festival (mass – many, kara-faces) was held in the 1980s during the great sugar crisis in Negros Occidental. Negros, once the land of sugar and wealth, was troubled because of the plummeting prices of sugar and the introduction of cheaper sugar substitutes.
The Philippine Ministry Of Tourism was then requesting a festival representing the identity of each locality. While Negros is known for sugar, morale was at an all-time low in its sugar industry. Also, the situation was aggravated with the tragedy of the Bacolod-bound MV Don Juan’s accident in 1980, where 200 Negrenses died.
To restore the morale of their people and help them get up again, Negros’ artists, local government and civic organizations, introduced the Festival of Smiles, which became the MassKara Festival. The smiles in the MassKara dancers’ masks are a sign of the Negrenses’ resilience.
This year, 19 contingents battled it out at the festival’s main event yesterday, the barangay street dance and arena performance competition. Below are the overall winners:
4th place (3rd runner-up), Barangay 22
3rd place (2nd runner-up), Barangay Alijis
Barangay Alijis also won Best Costume.
2nd place (1st runner-up), Barangay Cabug
Barangay Cabug also won Best Concept.
First place, Champion, Barangay 16. This group, with their elaborate masks and props, easily stood out from the already colorful dancers.
Barangay 16 also bagged Best Choreography.
And, Best Mask! I tried lifting one of their masks. It was heavy!