Possibly one of the happiest festivals in the world, Masskara is a riot of colourful masks, costumes, and parades that happens every October in the Philippine city of Bacolod.
Every third weekend of October, or the one that’s nearest to October 19, the Filipinos of Bacolod come together to celebrate this gorgeous festival. The name is a fusion of the English word for ‘many people’ and cara, the Spanish word for face. It’s also a pun on maskara, the Filipino word for mask.
The festival has an interesting origin. It began in 1980, when sugar-production was the major means of subsistence, and world prices of sugar were at an all-time low. This, combines with the sinking of a ship carrying several prominent Bacolod family members meant that the atmosphere in the city was one of gloom. The city government and artists banded together to lift everyone’s spirits with a “festival of smiles”. It became a symbol of hope, and a statement on how the people of Bacolod city would always pursue happiness, no matter how tough the times were.
The masks and costumes at the festival originally bore native Filipino designs, but in recent years, they’ve seen the unavoidable influence of the carnivals of Rio and Venice, creating a beautiful fusion of designs. 450,000 residents of the city take to the streets, some of them wearing the masks, and others to watch these masked performers gyrating to the rhythm of Latin musical beats. Some of the exciting activities include the MassKara Queen beauty pageant, carnivals, drum and bugle corps competitions, food festivals, sports events, musical concerts, agriculture-trade fairs, garden shows, and other spontaneous events organised each year.