MassKara Festival Bacolod City

Photo Courtesy of the Masskara Festival Facebook Page

The MassKara Festival takes place every year in Bacolod City.  This year the festival is in its 44th year and will run from October 7 to October 22, 2023.  

The MassKara Festival, nicknamed the “Festival of many faces” is famous for its lively street and arena dances. The street dance competition is the festival’s main attraction, and the city is committed to helping the participants deliver exciting shows.

Four Masskara Festival performers, featuring the traditional smiling masks are wearing black costumes with pink trim and decorations, and flowing white material with pink spots fall from their arms
Photo Courtesy of the Masskara Festival Facebook Page

Bacolod City Mayor, Alfredo Abelardo Benitez, has said that he wants this year’s street dance competition to be even more spectacular. And to make sure only the very best performances shine, 10 neighborhoods (barangays) have been invited to participate instead of the usual 17. 

These Barangays will get support from the city government to enhance their performances.

The MassKara Festival has gained recognition both locally and internationally. The 2022 dance champions, Barangay Granada, performed in New York City during the Philippine Independence Anniversary Commemoration Parade. And 2022’s runners up, performers from Barangay Sum-ag, took part in the 2023 Busan International Dance Festival in South Korea.

Bacolod City also earned the Best Festival Practices and Performances award at the Aliw Awards 2022. This recognition followed the MassKara Festival’s comeback after a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MassKara Festival is an important and vibrant event held annually in Bacolod, Philippines. It has a deep history and plays a key role in uplifting both locals and visitors.

Three people wearing elaborate Festival costume, with a pale pink mask featuring a white angel doll sat on top of the head, and large black feathered headdress and beaded chest plates and cuffs in yellow
Photo Courtesy of the MassKara Festival Facebook Page

MassKara Festival History

The festival began in 1980, as a response to economic troubles in the region caused by low sugar prices.  Bacolod has historically relied heavily on the sugar market, but had been facing lots of challenges due to alternatives in the market.

Another event, which had a significant impact on the community was the sinking of the MV Don Juan ferry in Tablas Strait.  This tragic event resulted in the deaths of many people from the province.

Name Origin:

“MassKara” comes from “mass” (many) and “kara” (faces), making “MassKara,” the Festival of Many Faces. The smiling masks used in the festival symbolize Bacolod locals’ strength in tough times.

A celebrant with a blue sequined face masks, red fabric smile and orange colored sequin decorations, with their arms raised
Photo Courtesy of the MassKara Festival Facebook Page

MassKara Festival Highlights:

The festival is always scheduled to finish on the fourth Sunday of October.  In 2023 the festival will end on October 22.

It’s a time for celebration, fun, and street parties. The main event is a dance competition with participants in colorful costumes and cheerful masks.

The festival includes the Electric MassKara night parade with LED-lit dancers, bands, and floats, and there is also a Festival Queen beauty pageant, food fests, and a float parade.

Festival Impact:

The festival is a reminder to people to stay resilient, creative, and positive during times of challenge. It sets out to showcase the positive spirit of Bacolod’s people and bring smiles, happiness to boost the human spirit. 

A young filipina (girl) holding a white MassKara festival mask with yellow velvet headdress and vibrant strips of colour fanning out from the forehead of the mask.
Photo Courtesy of the MassKara Festival Facebook Page

Bacolod has become known as the “City of Smiles” because of the festival’s focus on positivity and resilience.

To really enjoy the MassKara Festival, book your accommodation early, so you can be central to the festivities.  Make sure to check the Festival Facebook page for the schedule of events and activities. And pack and wear your most comfortable shoes!

Do you have any tips for what to do, where to stay or what to eat when visiting Bacolod?  Let us know in the comments.

What do you think?

Written by Angel Lam Ko

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