Bacolod MassKara Festival Guide – 2013 Edition

The MassKara Festival of Bacolod City is undoubtedly one of the most-awaited festivals in the Philippines, drawing thousands of tourists every year to the City of Smiles. The “happiest festival in the Philippines” is almost a month-long celebration with activities such as concerts, food fairs, street parties and more. The highlight of the MassKara Festival is the street dancing competition where participants wear colorful costumes, elaborate masks and headdresses, and dance to Latin music.

History of MassKara Festival

masskara festivalWith all these revelry, who would have thought that the MassKara Festival was conceptualized in order for the people to overcome major crises they experienced? It was in the 80s that the sugar industry suffered its all time low. Negros Occidental as the “sugar bowl” of the Philippines has a monocrop economy and was most affected by the sugar crisis. To make matters worse, the tragic sinking of the Don Juan passenger ship which claimed the lives of hundreds of Negrenses delivered another blow to the already low spirits of the Negrenses.

In 1980, a group of city officials, artists and civic leaders conceived MassKara Festival to liven up the Charter Day Celebration of Bacolod City. The term MassKara was coined by the late president of the Arts Association of Bacolod (AAB), Ely Santiago, from the English word “Mass” meaning “many or multitude of people” and the Spanish word “Kara” meaning “face”. It was how MassKara came to mean “face of the masses or a multitude of smiling faces”. This was how MassKara Festival became a symbol of how the people of Bacolod transcend difficulties.

MassKara Festival has come a long way from its humble beginnings. The MassKara Dancers has performed in different international locations, bringing with them the infectious smile and the distinct charm of the Negrenses. Still, there’s nothing like experiencing MassKara festival firsthand.

Mayor Puentevella

Mayor Monico Puentevella during the Press Conference for MassKara 2013

This year’s MassKara Festival 2013 celebration is very special because Bacolod City will be celebrating its 75th Charter Anniversary with the theme “Rediscover and Celebrate Bacolod.” With the leadership of the new Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella, there will be a lot of exciting new activities to look forward to. If you are planning to visit Bacolod City for the MassKara Festival, we hope this guide will help you make the most of your visit.

MassKara Festival Events

The main event of MassKara Festival is the street dancing competition where people from all walks of life troop to the streets to see colorfully masked dancers move to the rhythm of Latin music.

In addition to the MassKara street dancing competition, Electric MassKara is another most awaited event. This is also a street dancing competition but dancers wore masks with colorful lights and this is done at night.

Other major events are the MassKara Queen beauty pageant, carnivals, drum and bugle corps competitions, food festivals, sports events, musical concerts, agriculture-trade fairs, garden shows, and other special events organized ad-hoc every year.

MassKara Festival 2013 Schedule of Activities

Check the schedule of activities below for the highlights and other events which might interest you.

How to Prepare For Your Trip to Bacolod City for the MassKara Festival

  • Read on the different aspects of life in Bacolod – the food, culture and history as well as the must-visit sites. Choosing the right places to visit saves you a lot of time. Don’t be a tourist, be one with the locals and familiarize with the local culture so you get to enjoy Bacolod in all its different facets.
  • Book your tickets and hotel rooms in advance as every accommodation from hotels to the pension houses is sure to be full. Bacolod City is only 50 minutes by plane form Metro Manila served by Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Tiger Airways and Zest Air. Bacolod is also accessible by sea and RORO vessels. From Bacolod-Silay Airport, you can take a shuttle (P150 per head), or a taxi and ask to be dropped off to your hotel.

Travel Tip: If direct flights from Manila to Bacolod are no longer available, or if they are already too expensive, consider taking the flight to Iloilo City. You can get to Bacolod from Iloilo in one hour through a fast craft.

Going Around Bacolod City During MassKara Festival

Going around Bacolod City is easy since there are various jeepney routes plying around Bacolod with minimum fare of P7.50 per head. There are also tricycles and pedicabs for short distances with P10 per fare per head. If you are going to rent, then you have to pay for the total seats usually P20 for the pedicab and P100 for the tricycle depending on your destination. There are also a lot of taxi cabs in Bacolod but avoid the ones that do not use the meter. I can personally recommend Faith Taxi, Angel in Us, MMLI (uses CCTV camera) and Love Cab (with WiFi).

Some main roads like Araneta Street and Lacson Street may be closed to vehicle during MassKara Festival so be prepared to take some walk by wearing comfortable shoes. Take this also as an opportunity to enjoy the sites and sounds around the main streets of Bacolod. Araneta and Lacson streets are very much alive with concerts and events for the MassKara Festival.

How to Enjoy MassKara Festival 2013

  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes and be prepared for any weather. With climate change, who knows what weather we’ll have on MassKara day? But be prepared for a scorching hot day or a rainy day. Bring a folding umbrella and a hat which will come in handy for any weather. Don’t forget to apply sunblock and bring ample drinking water.
  • masskara 2013 photo contestGet the best view of the streetdancing competition. If you want to get closer to the dancers and get on the streets where the action is, I suggest you get a photographer’s ID. For P800, you can enter all major activity areas and you can also enter your photos for the contest.
  • Get on the street at least an hour before the start of the streetdancing which is usually at 2PM. Whether you have a photographer’s ID or not, there are a lot of spots where you can get a good photo opportunities with the dancers. Good spots are the Araneta-Libertad Street (near Bacolod Chicken Haus), in front of Rizal Elementary School and in front of Lopue’s Araneta and Lopue’s San Sebastian.
  • Don’t go to sleep, at least not until you get to party along Lacson Street. As the Tourism Strip of Bacolod, Lacson Street is where most parties and concerts will be held during MassKara Festival. Don’t worry about food because you’ll never go hungry in Lacson Street because it’s lined with local restaurants and international fastfood chains.

More Reasons to Visit Bacolod

It’s more fun to visit Bacolod during MassKara Festival but there’s more to Bacolod than the “happiest festival in the Philippines”. Negros Occidental has a lot of tourist attractions waiting to be discovered.

Below are Top 10 Reasons to Visit Bacolod other than MassKara Festival, in no particular order.

  1. The Ruins. There are many ancestral houses in Negros Occidental but none of them has a story as interesting and romantic as the Ruins of Mariano Lacson’s mansion… and none of them has an equally interesting and engaging guide named Roger.
  2. Heritage Houses and Delicacies of Silay City. This city has the most number of NHI registered ancestral houses in the Philippines and three of which were turned into museums. Silay City is also home to famous delicacies of Negros Occidental and home to the oldest bakeshop in the province, El Ideal.
  3. Museums – Negros museums are time capsules of the lifestyles of Negrenses. Know more about the history of the province and sugar as its lifeblood by visiting the Negros Museum, Dizon-Ramos Museum and the Museum Negrense de La Salle.
  4. Art Galleries. Ever heard of Nunelucio Alvarado and Charlie Co? Well, they’re some of the country’s top artists and they’re from Bacolod City. You can find their works and of other local artists in various Bacolod Art Galleries such as Italia Restaurant, Artes Figuras and Gallery Orange.
  5. Organic Food and Agriculture– Negros Island is the Organic Agriculture capital of the Philippines so if you want to learn more about Organic Agriculture, or simply want to taste Organic Food, then Bacolod is the best place for you. Visit the Negros Organic Market, Peñalosa Farms, AID Foundation and May’s Organic Garden and Restaurant if you want to be inspired to try the organic lifestyle.
  6. Local Food and Drinks – Ilonggo foods are among the tastiest in the country. Think of Bacolod Chicken Inasal, Batchoy, Bas-uy, Cansi -  I’m sure you’re already salivating.  You can have all these and more in Bacolod. Did I mention drinks? Yes, we have locally produced Federico’s Wine, Bogsbrew Beer and Don Papa Rum. And after you’ve had all the intoxicating drinks, sober up with our local coffee brews from Fresh Start Organics, Bob’s Café and Kuppa.
  7. Cakes and Pastries – In Bacolod, you can have all the cakes you want and eat them too. We aren’t the “sugar bowl” of the Philippines for nothing. We have the best pastries and delicacies in the country such as napoleons and piaya and cakes and pastries from Calea, Bob’s, Bascon and Felicia’s.
  8. Mambukal Resort – When it comes to eco-destinations, Mambukal Resort is one of the top destinations in Negros and one which is very accessible from Bacolod City. Only 45 minutes from Bacolod and you’ll be able to enjoy the seven-tiered waterfalls, visit the butterfly garden, watch the fruit bats, take a dip in the warm spring pool, or be treated to a relaxing spa.
  9. Churches – In addition to colonial churches, Negros Occidental has some of the most interesting churches in the country. Colonial churches such as the San Sebastian Cathedral of Bacolod, Mary Magdalene of Hinigaran, San Diego Pro Cathedral of Silay are just some of the province’s colonial churches. Churches such as the St. Joseph the Worker in Victorias (Church or Angry Christ), Chapel of the Cartwheels in Manapla and the Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel in Bacolod are churches to visit for spiritual and cultural enrichment.
  10. Negros Products. Don’t leave Bacolod without bringing home products handcrafted by Negrense hands. The Negros Showroom by the Association of Negros Producers houses the best products in Negros Island. Most of the producers are small enterprises and a majority of them managed by women.

In addition to these wonderful reasons to visit Bacolod, every visitor gets a bonus, the infectious smile of the locals. While you’re preparing for your MassKara 2013 trip, get into the groove by listening to this year’s MassKara music.

Kari na sa Bacolod!

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