MassKara Festival began at the time of doom and gloom in Negros Occidental.
World market prices for sugar, the province’s monocrop, went down. And its impact was felt, all ones.
A year before the MassKara Festival was born, two artists approached then Mayor Jose “Digoy” Montalvo and broached the idea of popularizing mask masking as an alternative livelihood for the city.
The two, George Macainan and Ely Santiago, offered to help train barangay folk how to make masks out of paper mâché.
Montalvo liked the idea of mask-making for livelihood.
But how will the masks produced by the barangays be marketed? Who will buy them?
The mayor had an answer: Let’s have a mask festival!
Santiago drew the first MassKara logo, and thought of the name of the festival: MassKara; “mass” meaning many; “kara” meaning faces. Literally, it is a Festival of Many Faces.
Then M/V Don Juan—an inter-island vessel carrying many Bacolenos and Negrense, inclusing prominent families—sank in April 22 of the same year, adding to the gloom.
In its wake, the question rose: With the crisis and tragedy, shall the festival proceed as scheduled?
Montalvo had answered: “Precisely because of the crisis and tragedy, the more we need a festival that will bring back the smile on people’s faces and make them dance.
Thus the MassKara’s underlying meaning is that it is a declaration of the people’s resolve to rise above adversity and triumph over crisis, tragedy, and disaster.
It also followed the positioning of Bacolod as “The City of Smiles”.
Major activities such as beauty pageant MassKara Queen, Electric MassKara—Bacolod’s biggest street party, MassKara Red Party—a party for the Bacoleño youth, Choreographers’ Face-off—a street showdown of the city’s top choreographers, singing and dance contest, and fireworks competitions, among others, are being organized each year.
And the MassKara Street and Arena Dance Competition, where participants from schools and barangays in the city wear colorful masks and costumes and dance to the infectious rhythm of the locally-composed music, highlights the festival.
For the first time, a MassKara logo has the theme of the festival in bigger fonts than the words “MassKara Festival”. This is to emphasize that this MassKara celebrates a milestone bigger than the festival—the 80th birthday of the city, Festival Director Eli Tajanlangit said. The logo shows a MassKara dancer peeking through the first letter O in the word Bacolod. Jarmin said the dancer is wearing a mask with eight colorful feathers representing eight decades of the city, silhouettes of a human figure representing the people of Bacolod behind the masks, a black and white checkered pattern representing one of Bacolod’s landmarks—the public plaza’s checked steps, and a smiling face on the second letter O.