Masskara 2011: The Festival of Smiles

Masskara 2011: The Festival of Smiles

We left Manila for Iloilo early in the morning. I was really excited for the Masskara Festival of Bacolod that I did some itinerary dry-runs while at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport waiting for the announcement to board the plane. We arrived in Iloilo five minutes late from the scheduled time. But it did not matter because I knew that the street dancing is normally scheduled in the afternoon. We had ample time to travel to Bacolod.

From the airport, take a shuttle service (not the cabs because they charge higher fares) to SM City Iloilo or Jaro (which is located at the centre of the city). Shuttles, just to be clear, are vans that serve as public transportation. Fare is 50pesos. You can get off near the Jaro Church, with Jollibee fastfood establishment on the other side of the street and Ted’s La Paz Batchoy on the corner of the street perpendicular to where the shuttles would normally stop. You can either take a jeepney or taxi to the port. Fare is only 7.50pesos for the jeepney but you need to walk to the ticketing station of boats to Bacolod. Cabs can take you right in front of the ticketing stations of either the Weesam Express or Supercat. We paid 100pesos to the taxi driver from Jaro to the port.

Ferries or boats depart for Bacolod on schedules. In the case of Supercat, it leaves Iloilo starting at 6 o’clock in the morning with 1 ½-hour-difference to the next trip and the last trip is 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I think, Weesam starts at 6:30 AM with the same time difference to the next trip (one boat was leaving when we arrived at the port, so we had to wait for the 7:30 AM schedule of Supercat). For Supercat, fare is 450pesos for the business class (air-conditioned room and at the upper deck); 300pesos for the tourist class (air-conditioned room at the lower deck); and 230pesos for the economy class (non-air-conditioned room at the upper deck, just outside the business class room). We were lucky because the company had roundtrip (two-way) promo fares for the Masskara Festival: 600pesos for business class; 500pesos for the tourist class; and 460pesos for the economy class. Travel time is more or less 1 hour and 45 minutes.

From the Bacolod Port, you can take a pedicab (a three-wheeled vehicle made from bicycle attached with carrier for passengers and moved by pedalling) to the city centre. One ride can accommodate two passengers and costs 20pesos.

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I like Masskara Festival because of the pictures of dancers in colourful costumes and happy masks. I heard that the festival was borne from economic downturns and natural catastrophes that occurred in the yesteryears. This year’s theme New Icons of Bacolod is all about the new infrastructures and landmarks of the city that gives a cue on the path of progress that the city and its people is taking.
Masskara 2011: The Festival of Smiles
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Streetdance competitions for the schools and barangays (villages) were scheduled on the last Saturday and Sunday of the almost-month-long festival. It is best to go a day before the streetdances so you could witness the electric masks and floats competition at night. Arena competition happens in the city plaza after parading and dancing in the streets and usually starts at 3PM. To get the best seat, reserve your place and endure the heat of the sun sitting over the steel benches near the stage. Do not be tempted by the shade of the trees over the benches at the back.
Since we were early in the city for the streetdances, we decided to roam around and through the streets. Big masks made by different groups of people were dangled in trees in the plaza.

Different masks were displayed at Robinson’s Place. Life-sized figures in masks were displayed at SM mall. Masks of different features are sold in the streets and several commercial establishments. Price ranges from more or less a hundred bucks.For great souvenir items like tees, keychains, fridge magnets and masks, you can visit The Negros Showroom in front of the capitol. Tees can cost from 200-300pesos. Keychains and fridge magnets can cost 100pesos at most. Masks made up of clay and those that can be worn could reach up to 500pesos. The popular Bongbong’s piaya can be purchased in the malls and other commercial establishments.

Festival upturns: The city government scheduled the streetdance and arena competitions on weekends. It is a great strategy to attract local and foreign tourists. This could translate to lively economic activities and a great way to make the city popular not only to the country but to the whole world.

Downturns: The city has no schedule announcements placed in strategic locations. Tourists have no way of knowing the activities for a particular day. A tourist information centre is placed in front of the city capitol, which is a bit far from the centre of the activities.

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