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.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.