The festive sounds, burst of colors, and the infectious smiles were enough to get you into the rythm of the celebration. Everyone that you meet are in all smiles, intoxicated by the rythm. It was a festival where the smiles never fade, rain or shine. This is Bacolod City's Masskara Festival!
The calm mornings along Lacson Street in Bacolod are complete opposite when the clock strikes at 2pm. The city buzzes in one beat as delegations from schools and barangays weave through the streets with their iconic masskara. The main events/competitions are held at the Bacolod City Plaza where the delegates outdance each other with their choreography and costume designs, and masskara. The festivities continue on through the night along Lacson Street where the sponsored street parties and concerts are held.
If you find yourself in the middle of the Masskara Festivities or you are planning to join the fun next year, here are 5 things that you can do during that weekend.
Catch the Street and Arena Masskara Dance Competition
Nothing beats the fun of watching the main highlights of the festivities of the Masskara - the streetdance competition and Masskara competion! The two events are held on separate days with the schools taking the stage on the 4th Saturday and the barangays on the 4th Sunday of October.
The Masskara Streetdance is held along Araneta Street. The delegates dance to the year's theme as they make their way to the Bacolod City Plaza. There are judging areas along the route where they stop to showcase their colorful masks and choreography. We stationed ourselves at the judging station in front of Rizal Elementary School where we were treated with a fun and intoxicating street dancing.
Both events culminate at the Bacolod City Plaza where the delegation showcases their 15-minute themed presentation, complete with dancing and colorful props. The "Masskara Arena" serves as the final judging area of the competition.
If you plan on watching the main showcase at the Bacolod City Plaza, you need to come in early as the place gets easily filled up. You also need to weather-proof yourself and your stuff from both the sun and the rain.
Take photos of the colorful masskaras.
Take a picture or, better yet, have a picture taken with the iconic image of the festival. Each delegation takes a lot of time and effort to create these colorful and festive masks. The designs change every year and part of the celebration is judging the best masskara design among the participants.
I had fun taking pictures of their colorful masks and costumes. Most of the participants will gladly oblige to pose for the cameras to showcase their school or barangays creativity. So do not leave the festival without a nice capture of their masskara!
Party at Lacson Street
After all the street dancing and presentations, make your way to Lacson Street at the heart of the city and join the evening festivities. Be sure to be there early to catch the Electric Masskara where floats adorned with lights parade along the length of Lacson Street!
A significant section of Lacson Street is closed off to give way for festival sponsors to mount their gimmicks and concerts. Expect to have the usual food fairs that showcases Bacolodnon cuisine, especially inasal. You will also find a number of staging areas by major sponsors where most hold concerts featuring local artists and big names in the industry. Have fun checking out the booths and take home freebies from the sponsors.
The best time to enjoy the night parties is Saturday where most of the entertainment industry's big names take the stage. You can expect the crowd but they are not rowdy. Yes, you can drink alcohol but only on designated areas.
Explore Bacolod City
As most of the festivities happen in the afternoon, you can go around and explore Bacolod City in the morning. The city has a proud collection of interesting destinations that will give you a glimpse of its rich and colorful past.
Go out and explore Bacolod City where you get to see the unique mix of colonial and local influences. Check out the Negros Occidental Capitol Building and get awed by its American-inspired architecture, complete with its sprawling park and lagoon. You can also check out the Negros Museum where you get a glimpse of the old days of the province.
Offer a prayer of thanksgiving at the San Sebastian Cathedral and catch a glimpse of the old bells of the church. The cathedral also gives you a preview of the Spanish influence in the city. Then cap it off with a quick tour of the Bacolod City Plaza before the festivities begin.
If you can afford to wake up early then drop by the neighboring cities of Talisay and Silay. The Ruins in Talisay City will impress on you the lavish lifestyle of the sugar barons of Negros while you get to enjoy walking back in time along the streets of Silay with its well-preserved heritage houses. Check out my previous blog entry here for a quick Bacolod-Talisay-Silay itineraries.
Bacolod City Food Spotting
Bacolod City is, no doubt, a food haven. It is one city where everyday is a cheat day and there is always a reason to get your tummy filled up to the brim. Thus, food spotting in this city is a definite must when you join the festivities of the Masskara!
First on the list is Bacolod's famous dish - the inasal. A trip to the city is never complete without getting your hands into this delectable grilled chicken and the best place to get an authentic chicken inasal fill is Aida's. The restaurant, located in Manokan Country near SM City Bacolod, is the most popular go to place by both locals and tourists so you can expect the place to be crowded by diners during lunch and dinner hours but diner turnaround is pretty fast. And the wait is really worth it. They also have other grilled dishes in their menu that complements their inasal. The best dish that go very well with inasal is their Kansi.
If you are up for a good fix of baby back ribs, Lord Byron is the place to head off to. Their sweet barbecued ribs are so tender that the meat melts in your mouth. The restaurants also have other menu offerings and their steak became an easy favorite for me.
Desserts are heavenly in Bacolod City. Calea is the cafe that comes to mind first for people who loves desserts. There cake selections will make you drop all your diet plans. My personal favorite is their mudpie. Alternatively, you can also try Bob's Cafe for their own brand of cakes. Bob's also have its own restaurant that also serves Bacolodnon cuisine.
It goes without saying that the celebratory mood of the Masskara Festival and the gastronomic delights of the city make it a perfect combination that would pit a hige smile on the faces of locals and its guests.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Bacolod City's Masskara Festival is the most vibrant festival in the country. The colors, moves, creativity, and, more importantly, the smiles are infectious that one could not help but join in its rythm. The presentations will loosen one up and make you sway to the beat of the streetdancers. In the end, you simply get into the vibe of the festivities and, unknowingly, smile under the heat of the afternoon sun or under a heavy downpour.
The Philippines is not only a nation composed of 7, 641 beautiful islands but it is also the home of the most colorful and exciting festivals. Masskara is not an exception. In fact, t is more than a festival. It is a story. It is a celebration of hope that lives in the heart of every Bacolodnon that through the toughest times, the biggest smiles emerge.
Dali na sa Bacolod!
Getting There: The streetdance and arena competition of the Masskara Festival is held on the last weekend of October. The school competition is held on the Saturday while the barangay level is held on the Sunday at the Bacolod City Public Plaza.
All major airlines in the Philippines have daily flights to Bacolod City from Manila and key cities of the country.
Iloilo is one of the oldest provinces in the country. It is home to a lot of heritage houses, churches, and structures that date back to the Spanish period. Its gateway, Iloilo City, is one of the most exciting destinations in the Visayas. It gives a treat that can satisfy your cravings visually, mentally, and gastronomically.
Beyond the sights, sounds, and taste of the city are numerous destinations that is worth exploring that gives the province a different accent. We are all too familiar with Miag-ao Church, a UNESCO Heritage site, an hour and a half south of the city. This part of the province probably comes close to second as the most visited destination because of this Spanish-period church.
But there is more history to immerse into in Iloilo. This time Asher and I headed inland to discover the rich cultural heritage of the province that remains off-beat. We re-lived history and enjoyed the laidback provincial vibe of Janiuay, Cabatuan, and Sta. Barbara.
Janiuay is an old municipality in Iloilo that was created in 1769 and is home to two heritage structures that dates back to the Spanish period. One of these heritage structures is the Janiuay Cemetery dubbed as the most artistic cemetery in the country.
Situated on a slope, it took 9 years for its construction to be completed that started in 1874. Its main feature is the grand staircases that leads up to the grand arched gates of the cemetery. Its perimeters are bounded by a brick fence made from rocks. The main staircase has 23 steps, the rightmost has 21 steps, and the leftmost has 22 steps leading to the gates.
At the heart of the cemetery is the octagonal campo santo where the final vigil and service is held. The lancelet-shaped windows and door and the intricate artisan work inside the capilla stand out for its beauty. The centerpiece of the camposanto's interior is the Mother and Jesus image.
Janiuay Church Ruins
At the center of town, one would find the church ruins of Janiuay.
The ruins are the remains of the second church built in 1839 in Janiuay. One can see traces of its neo-classical design with its arched windows and columns. The church was built with bricks and coral stones. Unfortunately, the church fell victim to World War 2 and was never restored to its original state after the war.
A new church was built where regular services are held. The ruins have been refurbished and now has a small chapel within its walls.
Getting there: You can take a jeepney to Janiuay from the Iloilo Central Bus Line. Travel time is about an hour and a half. Tricycles is the way to go around Janiuay.
The massive church structure stands mighty and proud at the heart of town. Its walls, a meter thick and overlaid with red bricks, are eye catching as it showcases it unique mix of neo-classical and tuscan design. The Church of San Nicolas de Tolentino of Cabatuan is, not only an architectural beauty, but a mute witness to the town's rich history.
A convento once stood adjacent to the church. It was also massive that it can accomodate 3000 people at one time. However, it was burned down by the guerrillas during World War 2 and, what was left, was demolished by the Japanese. Its bricks were used for a nearby landing field.
It is the only church in the province that has 3 facades and, prior to 1948, 6 belfries. Despite losing four of its belfries due to an earthquake, the Cabatuan Church is still a site to behold and admired for its beauty and stories.
Getting there: You can take a jeep for Iloilo City from Janiuay and you can ask the driver to drop you off at Cabatuan town proper.
Santa Barbara Church and Convent
Santa Barbara is another municipality in Iloilo that is also a repository of history. It is a town that proudly displays the heroism and bravery of its locals.
At the center of its faith is the Santa Barbara Church and Convent - one of the restored and well-preserved churches in the province. Its baroque colonial design gives one a glimpse of the rich past of the town of Santa Barbara. Its facade, resembling a three-tierred retablo, is worth admiring. Its facade and altars were all patterned from the big churches of Spain.
The church complex played a vital role in the liberation of Iloilo from Spanish regime. It was within its walls where local Filipino hero, General Martin Delgado, convened revolutionaries to usher the revolt against Spaniards in Iloilo. The church was granted its historical marker in 1990 to recognize its contribution in Philippine history.
Santa Barbara Centennial Museum
Walking around Santa Barbara, one can get to see how history unfolded in this town. You walk its streets and Philippine history comes alive for its visitors to enjoy.
The local government recognizes its rich history and a centennial museum was established to preserve and highlight its contributions. The museum exhibits personal artifacts of its local hero, Major Delgado, and Philippine Revolution memorabilias.
Gen. Delgado Monument and Sta Barbara Park
General Martin Delgado is a reverred hero in the province of Iloilo. He was a revolutionary who pretended to be loyal to Spain while laying down the groundwork of the revolution. It was in October 1898 that he led the revolution and quickly took over the reigns of the town.
The monument is within the confines of the Sta. Barbara Park. Its is an open space park with a bandstand at the center of the park. This is a typical design of parks in the Visayas where the plaza is a place where locals congregate and celebrate.
The General Delgado Monument was mounted at the heart of town to honor his bravery. His bronze image facing the flag, the biggest outside of Luzon, of the country that he loved and fought for. His remains now lie under the monument that honors the greatest Visayan revolutionary.
Getting there: You can take a jeep to Santa Barbara from Infante Street (near UP Iloilo). Travel time is 30 minutes.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Janiuay, Cabatuan, and Sta. Barbara may not ring a bell, for most travellers, who have made their rounds in the province of Iloilo. These towns live under the shadows of the more popular destinations of Iloilo City and Miag-ao but has maintained its own brand of tourism. These towns may not have that eye-catching spots, at this time, but it can develop its tourism infrastructure that can earn it own tourism brand that borders on history and, for Janiuay, dark tourism.
Travel destinations, for most of the time, are often centered in major cities where development are implemented. It becomes a focal point where tourism programs are executed to the tee giving these major cities an advantage. But if we look around its peripherals, we would find rustic and raw tourism gems that are as interesting as what we usually find in mainstream tourism spots. To discover these raw destinations is every travellers' sweet spot.
Getting There: Major airlines have daily flights to Iloilo City.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.