MassKara Festival

Welcome to the City of Smiles! 🙂

I became fascinated with the Philippine culture when I noticed the similarities between the Tagalog language and the Spanish language. With Spanish on my side and my slight “obsession” with languages, I decided to add Tagalog to my collection. But, in order to understand the Philippine people’s use of language, I must first understand the Philippine culture. I chose to write about the MassKara Festival because it is unique and it expresses the people of Bacolod’s positivity and resilience. How wonderful would it be to come form a place that is known for their smiles? and what better way to face adversity than with a big smile that says nothing can bring me down?!

Every year in October, the city of Bacolod, capitol of Negros Occidental in the Philippines, hosts their joyous MassKara Festival.

Bacolod City Hall, Negros Occidental, Philippines Photo from WikiMedia Commons

So what does MassKara mean?

The name of the festival is a play on words. The first part comes from the English word “mass” meaning a large amount (of people, in this case). The second part “kara” comes from the Spanish word “cara” which means face. The name “MassKara” also sounds like the word “máscara” which is Spanish for mask. So, the MassKara Festival is about masks, faces and a lot of people.

Giant MassKara Mask, 2013 Photo from WikiMedia Commons

Giant MassKara Mask, 2013
Photo from WikiMedia Commons

Origin of the MassKara Festival

Unlike many other festivals with histories that date back to times of prosperity and celebration, the MassKara festival actually originated from a period of crisis and tragedy.

Being the Philippines’ main source of sugar, when the world prices of sugar dropped in the early 1980’s, Bacolod city was hit the hardest. In that same year, a vessel named Don Juan sank, taking the lives of many Negrenses from Bacolod.

But instead of wallowing in grief, the city of Bacolod decided to throw a party. The local government thought a celebration could help lift the people’s spirits and improve on their struggling economy.

This celebration has continued year after year since then, and is now known as the MassKara Festival of Bacolod City.

Thanks to the MassKara festival, Bacolod earned its title as the City of Smiles.

MassKara participant 2013 Photo from WikiMedia Commons

MassKara street performer 2013
Photo from WikiMedia Commons

How is the festival celebrated?

Festivities last for about 20 days. Locals and tourists alike come together every October to enjoy music, dancing, parades, and smiles. Similar to Mardi Gras, festival-goes of MassKara create and dress in elaborate, costumes, colorful beads, magnificent headdresses , and, of course, happy, smiling masks.

MassKara street performer, 2013 Photo from WikiMedia Commons

MassKara street performer, 2013
Photo from WikiMedia Commons

A street dance competition opens the festival with performers from all around the region participating in creative and exuberant dances. Beating drums and Latin rhythms and lots of dancing fill the streets for the duration of MassKara.

MassKara street dance champion 2014

The girl with the most dazzling smile is selected to represent the spirit of the festival as the MassKara Queen.

MassKara Queen and her court, 2005

MassKara Queen and her court, 2005 Photo from WikiMedia Commons

Throughout the twenty days of MassKara, visitors can also enjoy beauty pageants, carnivals, drum and bugle competitions, food festivals, sports events, concerts, agricultural trade shows and garden shows.

“This year’s edition of Masskara festival in Bacolod City will features a new attraction: Electric Masskara float parade and dance competition and finally Barangay Granada and barangay 18 declared grand prize winners in the masskara street dance competition and electric dance float parade.” – video description from YouTube.

The MassKara Festival today

The MassKara festival has become a symbol of resilience for the people of Bacolod. It shows that no matter how difficult things may get, the city and its people will triumph and their smiles will never fade.

This year, the festival begins on the first of October and will continue until the 19th of October.

Salamat po! 🙂


Geronimo, Harold. “Celebrating the Philippines’ most Colorful Festivals.” The Filipino

Express:15. Jan 2010. ProQuest. Web. 26 Oct. 2015<http://search.proquest


“Masquerades.” Its More Fun in the Philippines RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.


“Masskara Festival – One Bacolod.” One Bacolod. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.


“The Official Website of Bacolod City.” The Official Website of Bacolod City. N.p., n.d.

Web. 6 Oct. 2015. <;.

“The Story Behind MassKara.” The Story Behind MassKara. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct.



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